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Social Knowledge:

Using Social Media to Know What


You Know
John P. Girard
Minot State University, USA
JoAnn L. Girard
Sagology, USA

INFORMATION SCIENCE REFERENCE


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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Social knowledge : using social media to know what you know / John P. Girard
and JoAnn L. Girard, editors.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Summary: "This book provides relevant theoretical frameworks, latest
empirical research findings, and practitioners' best practices social
knowledge, for improving understanding of the strategic role of social
knowledge in business, government, or non-profit sectors"--Provided by
publisher.
ISBN 978-1-60960-203-1 (hardcover) -- ISBN 978-1-60960-205-5 (ebook) 1.
Organizational learning. 2. Social networks. 3. Knowledge management. I.
Girard, John P., 1961- II. Girard, JoAnn L.
HD58.82.S63 2011
658.4'038--dc22
2011000065
British Cataloguing in Publication Data
A Cataloguing in Publication record for this book is available from the British Library.
All work contributed to this book is new, previously-unpublished material. The views expressed in this book are those of the
authors, but not necessarily of the publisher.

Editorial Advisory Board


Alex Bennet, Mountain Quest Institute, USA
Nick Bowersox, TUI University, USA
Kimiz Dalkir, McGill University, Canada
Cindy Gordon, Helix Commerce International, Canada
Parissa Haghirian, Sophia University, Japan
Haris Papoutsakis, Technological Education Institute (TEI) of Crete, Greece
Suzanne Roff-Wexler, Compass Point Consulting, USA
Michael Sutton, Westminster College, USA
Jerry Westfall, Liberty University, USA

List of Reviewers
Alex Bennet, Mountain Quest Institute, USA
David Bennet, Mountain Quest Institute, USA
Nick Bowersox , TUI University, USA
Kimiz Dalkir, School of Information Studies, McGill University, Canada
Loretta L. Donovan, Innovation Partners International, USA
John Girard, Minot State University, USA
JoAnn Girard, Sagology, USA
Cindy Gordon, Helix Commerce International Inc., Canada
Parissa Haghirian, Sophia University, Japan
Benjamin Hentschel , Sophia University, Japan
Phuong Thao Le, Diploma Business Informatics, Germany
Rita Yi Man Li, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Chethan M, Triumph India Software Services Pvt Ltd., India
Scott Campbell Mackintosh, Glengarry Group Consulting, Canada
Marcelo Machado, Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Stefania Mariano, New York Institute of Technology, Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain
Paul J. McBride, PhD Student, USA
Andrew Miller, Andrew-Miller.com, USA
Nhu T. B Nguyen, Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Japan

Haris Papoutsakis, Technological Education Institute of Crete, Greece


Maruthi Prasad, Triumph India Software Services Pvt Ltd, India
Sun Wah Poon, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Mohan Ramanathan, Triumph India Software Services Pvt Ltd, India
Salvatore Rasa, im21 (innovation/measurement 21st. century), USA
Suzanne Roff-Wexler, Compass Point Consulting, USA
Prof.dr.sc. Fjodor Ruzic, Institute for Informatics, Croatia
Michael Sutton , Westminster College, USA
Vivek K Thakur, Triumph India Software Services Pvt Ltd, India
Katsuhiro Umemoto, Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Japan
Jagdish K Vasishtha, CoFounder and CEO Injoos, India
Jerry Westfall, Liberty University, USA

Table of Contents

Foreword............................................................................................................................................... xv
Preface.................................................................................................................................................. xix
Acknowledgment............................................................................................................................... xxiv
Section 1
Social Knowledge in Action
Chapter 1
Social Learning from the Inside Out: The Creation and Sharing of Knowledge
from the Mind/Brain Perspective............................................................................................................. 1
David Bennet, Mountain Quest Institute, USA
Alex Bennet, Mountain Quest Institute, USA
Chapter 2
Measuring the Impact of Social Media: Connection, Communication and Collaboration.................... 24
Kimiz Dalkir, McGill University, Canada
Chapter 3
Challenging our Assumptions: Making Sense of the Sharing of Social Knowledge............................. 37
Suzanne Roff-Wexler, Compass Point Consulting, USA
Loretta L. Donovan, Innovation Partners International, USA
Salvatore Rasa, im21 (innovation/measurement 21st. century), USA
Chapter 4
Social Knowledge Case Study: Innovation Linked to the Collaborative Socialization
of Knowledge......................................................................................................................................... 61
Cindy Gordon, Helix Commerce International Inc., Canada

Chapter 5
Social Knowledge in the Japanese Firm................................................................................................ 78
Benjamin Hentschel, Sophia University, Japan
Parissa Haghirian, Sophia University, Japan
Section 2
Cultural Aspects of Social Knowledge
Chapter 6
Cultural Barriers to Organizational Social Media Adoption.................................................................. 96
Andrew Miller, Andrew-Miller.com, USA
Chapter 7
Organizational Culture: A Pillar for Knowledge Management............................................................ 115
Paul J. McBride, PhD Student, USA
Chapter 8
Social Leadership: Exploring Social Media and the Military A New Leadership Tool.................... 129
Scott Campbell Mackintosh, Glengarry Group Consulting, Canada
Chapter 9
Foundations of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management.................................................................... 139
Nhu T. B Nguyen, Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Japan
Katsuhiro Umemoto, Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Japan
Section 3
Social Knowledge Tools, Techniques and Technologies
Chapter 10
Becoming a Blogger: A Social Knowledge Experiment...................................................................... 164
Stefania Mariano, New York Institute of Technology, Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain
Chapter 11
Encouraging Participation in Virtual Communities of Practice within the
United States Air Force........................................................................................................................ 179
Nick Bowersox, TUI University, USA
Chapter 12
Social Knowledge Workspace............................................................................................................. 193
Jagdish K Vasishtha, CoFounder and CEO Injoos, India

Chapter 13
Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry:
An Evaluation Model........................................................................................................................... 207
Haris Papoutsakis, Technological Education Institute of Crete, Greece
Chapter 14
Social Knowledge: The Technology Behind....................................................................................... 236
M. Chethan, Triumph India Software Services Pvt Ltd., India
Mohan Ramanathan, Triumph India Software Services Pvt Ltd, India
Chapter 15
Empowering Social Knowledge with Information Technology: Technological
and Cultural Issues Convergence......................................................................................................... 249
Fjodor Ruzic, Institute for Informatics, Croatia
Compilation of References................................................................................................................ 292
About the Contributors..................................................................................................................... 320
Index.................................................................................................................................................... 326

Detailed Table of Contents

Foreword............................................................................................................................................... xv
Preface.................................................................................................................................................. xix
Acknowledgment............................................................................................................................... xxiv
Section 1
Social Knowledge in Action
Chapter 1
Social Learning from the Inside Out: The Creation and Sharing of Knowledge
from the Mind/Brain Perspective............................................................................................................. 1
David Bennet, Mountain Quest Institute, USA
Alex Bennet, Mountain Quest Institute, USA
This chapter explores from the viewpoint of the mind/brain the factors and conditions which influence
the social creation and sharing of knowledge. A foundation is developed by providing clear definitions of information, knowledge and learning, including levels of knowledge and the process through
which the mind/brain creates new knowledge. Then neuroscience findings are used to discuss social
interaction, including environmental impacts on the creations and sharing of knowledge. Factors such
as arousal and stress level, social attunement, holding environment, intersubjective space, level of trust,
social bonding, and an enriched external environment are posited to enhance the creation and sharing of
knowledge. Finally, the individual learning and knowledge activity is extrapolated to the societal level
through a short introduction to collaborative entanglement (learning to create and apply knowledge as
communities), and the use of metaphor and story. Summary highlight of neuroscience findings are also
provided.
Chapter 2
Measuring the Impact of Social Media: Connection, Communication and Collaboration.................... 24
Kimiz Dalkir, McGill University, Canada
This chapter focuses on a method, social network analysis (SNA) that can be used to assess the quantity
and quality of connection, communication and collaboration mediated by social tools in an organiza-

tion. An organization, in the Canadian public sector, is used as a real-life case study to illustrate how
SNA can be used in a pre-test/post-test evaluation design to conduct a comparative assessment of
methods that can be used before, during and after the implementation of organizational change in work
processes. The same evaluation method can be used to assess the impact of introducing new social media such as wikis, expertise locator systems, blogs, Twitter and so on. In other words, while traditional
pre-test/post-test designs can be easily applied to social media, the social media tools themselves can
be added to the assessment toolkit. Social network analysis in particular is a good candidate to analyze
the connections between people and content as well as people with other people.
Chapter 3
Challenging our Assumptions: Making Sense of the Sharing of Social Knowledge............................. 37
Suzanne Roff-Wexler, Compass Point Consulting, USA
Loretta L. Donovan, Innovation Partners International, USA
Salvatore Rasa, im21 (innovation/measurement 21st. century), USA
This chapter explores the assumptions we make, the questions we ask, and the social knowledge we
use to make decisions about our personal and business lives. It poses provocative questions challenging
assumptions about using social media to know what we know. The three co-authors take the position of
transparency to engage in a dialogue around issues that they agree are critical to any thoughtful exploration of social media: trust, assumptions, and reality. Personal experiences and anecdotes provide context for scholarly ideas and references. The chapter offers its readers a method to continue the dialogue.
Chapter 4
Social Knowledge Case Study: Innovation Linked to the Collaborative Socialization
of Knowledge......................................................................................................................................... 61
Cindy Gordon, Helix Commerce International Inc., Canada
The premise of this chapter is that Innovation Growth is tightly tied to the collaborative process of socializing knowledge. Case examples from leading companies leading the way in socializing knowledge
leading practices will be profiled. These companies will be a mix of new stories from a mix of both
profit and not for profit organizations, in a mix of industries. The leaders of these organizations recognize that the socialization process of knowledge is core key to innovation growth. This chapter tells the
story of change agents that are helping to move from vision to execution successfully. You will hear of
experiences where the full enablement of their programs are not fully funded, or necessarily aligned
across all levels of management where the generational gaps between understanding community and
value network networks vs those based on linear one way flow models continue to conflict with one
another; The case studies all started off with a small project well scoped and defined, and organically
evolved vs a big bang approach. Each of these cases is rooted in a clear business need either for employee engagement or customer engagement needs.
Chapter 5
Social Knowledge in the Japanese Firm................................................................................................ 78
Benjamin Hentschel, Sophia University, Japan
Parissa Haghirian, Sophia University, Japan

It is widely accepted that the Japanese conception of organizational knowledge differs from the Western view, with the former focusing on tacit knowledge and the latter more on explicit knowledge. The
distinctive advantage of Japanese companies is widely believed, therefore, to be their unique ability
to continuously create new knowledge by means of the dynamic interaction of individuals. Some aspects of Japanese culture are particularly influential on this knowledge management style, such as the
strength of face-to-face communication and the emphasis on gestures, behavior and context. These are
cultural factors that have shaped Japans distinctive organizational communication structures in periods
of high economic growth. However, having survived the lost decade, Japans companies now face a
completely new business environment. As new technologies enable new modes of communication between a companys employees, the use of social media in order to facilitate knowledge-sharing (social
knowledge) has become widespread. Based on a qualitative study conducted in a Japanese organization, this chapter investigates the extent to which social knowledge influences communicative behavior,
and looks at the implications for organizational communication patterns in Japan. The findings of this
study point towards changing patterns of social knowledge in Japanese firms.
Section 2
Cultural Aspects of Social Knowledge
Chapter 6
Cultural Barriers to Organizational Social Media Adoption.................................................................. 96
Andrew Miller, Andrew-Miller.com, USA
From telephones to fax machines to personal computers to email, most communication technology
has been introduced with a business function in mind, prior to becoming a part of our social lives.
However, social media is a technological anomaly; private individuals quickly adopted this technology
as an extension of their personal life without any previous introduction to it through their workplace.
Due to this reversal, many organizations are struggling to understand how this technology can benefit
their mission, while many more worry that it will devastate productivity and security. Individuals who
wield the power of expansive social media networks can significantly alter an organizations credibility
and fiscal health. Organizations who harness the massive data warehouses behind these social media
networks have the ability to significantly alter individual lives and society at large; for better or worse.
With this backdrop, what cultural barriers are being raised against social media adoption and how can
management re-align their understanding of social media to better utilize resources and take advantage
of the opportunities this technology presents?
Chapter 7
Organizational Culture: A Pillar for Knowledge Management............................................................ 115
Paul J. McBride, PhD Student, USA
This chapter describes how and why organizational culture is paramount towards endeavors of social
knowledge and knowledge management systems. Previous literature is discussed and ideas presented
to give an underlying understanding of organizational culture and knowledge management and how the

two interact. It is argued that a culture based on honesty, trust, and openness is best suited for knowledge
management. Cultures will ebb and flow as they evolve; thus it is imperative that managers take notice..
Organizations that employ social media to aid in culture development will build systems of knowledge
management that are based on proper culture that will inevitably lead to competitive advantage.
Chapter 8
Social Leadership: Exploring Social Media and the Military A New Leadership Tool.................... 129
Scott Campbell Mackintosh, Glengarry Group Consulting, Canada
This chapter will identify the militarys approach to social media and outline the security controversy it
views as an inherent issue associated with condoning and promoting the use of social media. It will then
discuss how that approach is evolving with the passage of time and the rapid adoption of social media
by society as a whole; examining the balance between security concerns and obvious organizational
benefits. In discussing social media as a vehicle of transformational leadership this chapter will reveal
untapped benefits of social media in a military context and examine where and how it could be adopted.
In closing this chapter will make recommendations, which would facilitate a better adoption of various
forms of social media by the military.
Chapter 9
Foundations of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management.................................................................... 139
Nhu T. B Nguyen, Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Japan
Katsuhiro Umemoto, Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Japan
Although the term Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management (CCKM) appeared in the recent literature, no study has defined CCKM yet. This is the first study that discusses the process of cross-cultural knowledge creation. Reviewing the literature on the relationship between cross-cultural management (CCM) and knowledge management (KM), we found that the term CCKM is emerged from two
streams. The first stream used CCKM to describe KM in a cross-cultural environment while the second
stream explored culture as knowledge. Following two streams, we then define CCKM as a series of
practices to recognize and understand cultural differences to develop a new culture thereby adjusting to cross-cultural environment. This definition helped us to examine the process of cross-cultural
knowledge creation and the role of leadership in this process. Not only contributing to developing KM
in a new way that can be applied to practice in utilizing and creating cross-cultural knowledge for KM
activities, but this chapter also may have many practical implications for leaders to manage effectively
cross-cultural knowledge of members in organizations.
Section 3
Social Knowledge Tools, Techniques and Technologies
Chapter 10
Becoming a Blogger: A Social Knowledge Experiment...................................................................... 164
Stefania Mariano, New York Institute of Technology, Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain

This chapter contributes to social knowledge theory and provides a practical approach for managing
social media. This study investigates how knowledge is created, transferred, and shared in social media
and proposes a way to manage social knowledge. Qualitative research methods are applied to collect
data through in-depth individual semi-structured interviews, think-aloud protocols, focus groups, and
document analysis. Data analysis is pursuit with the use of the qualitative software package Atlas.
ti. This study contributes to understanding how a community of people creates, transfers, and shares
knowledge in a virtual social environment, i.e. a Web log. Findings revealed that knowledge transfer
was the primary knowledge process in the management of the Web log and highlighted common issues,
concerns, and suggestions on how to develop a more effective virtual social environment. Limitations
in the creation, transfer, and sharing of knowledge are discussed, and recommendations on how to improve a Web log are provided for practice.
Chapter 11
Encouraging Participation in Virtual Communities of Practice within the
United States Air Force........................................................................................................................ 179
Nick Bowersox, TUI University, USA
With the growth of information and communication technology (ICT) such as the internet, email, and
video conferencing, the United States Air Force has become more efficient and productive in conducting its daily business. However, not only do computer technologies increase daily productivity rates
among the employees; they also increase the Air Forces capability to digest larger amounts of information while supporting an end goal of being able to share that information across the entire organization. Perhaps one of the most popular methods by which to share such large amounts of organizational
information is through informal learning environments such as communities of practice. The Air Force
has no doubt embraced the concept of communities of practice. However, as popular as these communities are among many employees, there is still a majority of Air Force employees who choose not to
use them. The purpose of this chapter is to provide practical ways in which the United States Air Force
can increase participation in Virtual Communities of Practice (VCoPs) among its workforce, as well as
providing theoretical frameworks upon which further research can be conducted. Finally, this chapter
will propose a set of testable propositions that may serve as the basis for future research.
Chapter 12
Social Knowledge Workspace............................................................................................................. 193
Jagdish K Vasishtha, CoFounder and CEO Injoos, India
Over the years, knowledge management in organizations has picked up steam with implementation of
various solutions like Content Management Systems, Wiki, etc. However, the ability to find relevant
information and capture organizational learning still looks like a distant dream. Also, organizations
worldwide are transforming due to changes in worker demographics, globalization of business and
technological advances. The knowledge workers of today need tools for effective knowledge capture
and team collaboration. Some of the key concerns which will be analyzed in this chapter are; (a)
Knowledge fragmentation due to technology, (b) Relevancy of information to a user and (c) Push vs.
Pull approach of accessing information. The chapter will also explore how these challenges can be addressed by social knowledge workspaces and what should be some of the key characteristics of these
technologies under development.

Chapter 13
Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry:
An Evaluation Model........................................................................................................................... 207
Haris Papoutsakis, Technological Education Institute of Crete, Greece
The chapter evaluates the contribution of shared knowledge and information technology to manufacturing performance. For this purpose, a theoretical model was built and tested in praxis through a research
study among manufacturing, quality and R&D groups. The social character of science is perceived as
a matter of the aggregation of individuals, not their interactions, and social knowledge as simply the
additive outcome of mostly scientists, members of the three groups, making sound scientific judgments.
The study results verify the significant contribution of shared knowledge to the manufacturing group
performance. They also demonstrate that information technology influences notably the manufacturing
group performance and, in a less significant way, the sharing of knowledge. Study results are useful
to researchers and the business community alike as they may be used as a springboard for further empirical studies and can help put together strategies involving knowledge management and information
technology.
Chapter 14
Social Knowledge: The Technology Behind....................................................................................... 236
M. Chethan, Triumph India Software Services Pvt Ltd., India
Mohan Ramanathan, Triumph India Software Services Pvt Ltd, India
Every now and then a technology appears that changes or speeds up the development of civilization in a
new direction. It started with agriculture, spread through the Industrial Revolution and to the electronic
age and now moved on to a state of technology that people would have laughed at a few decades ago.
Social networks have changed the way people connect, redefining the knowledge value system that is
being shared without borders or limits. The multitude of science and technology that go behind building
the social networks spans across mathematics to engineering to software and ultimately to the realms
of psychology and sociology once thought as distantly removed from any application of technology.
In this write up, we explore the convergence of many ideas and innovations and the technology that is
building these networks.
Chapter 15
Empowering Social Knowledge with Information Technology: Technological
and Cultural Issues Convergence......................................................................................................... 249
Fjodor Ruzic, Institute for Informatics, Croatia
Social knowledge is not a new category; however, in these times of information-communications systems maturity, it becomes an extremely important and valuable asset. In the context of social knowledge,
information technology should be constantly harmonized with cultural milieu characterized mostly by
invisible culture and its actions. The aim is to make the real and acceptable convergence of cultural and
technological issues. Since the knowledge becomes social only with the communication process, it is
deeply connected with the terms of media. Social knowledge is alike any media activity where two-tier

principles is included consisting cultural (politics and social paradigm) and technological (information
tools) issues. The real drawbacks of social knowledge based on information-communications systems
that means the dependency on information technology, is about the continuity - the entire social knowledge base could be fragmented or even lost for future generations. The information/digital content
keeping technologies are developed well, but the knowledge and invisible culture assets are under the
special treatment if we want to make our social knowledge as the legacy for future generations.
Compilation of References................................................................................................................ 292
About the Contributors..................................................................................................................... 320
Index.................................................................................................................................................... 326

xix

Foreword

MESSY COHERENCE
Unlike many of the management movements of the last half century knowledge management has no
single origin or unambiguous instantiation. Business Process Reengineering, the Balanced Score Card
and the Learning Organisation (to mention but a few) all originate with a single book which then defines
the field. In Knowledge Management The Knowledge Creating Company has considerable status but
it is only one of multiple sources in a heterogeneous field. While Nonaka with his various co-authors
popularised a partial account of Polanyis distinction between tacit and explicit knowledge, other thinkers
and practitioners drew on a body of information theory that can be traced back to Shannon. Add to that
the Intellectual Capital movement associated with Edvisson and Stewart which is a distinctive and persistent strand. In parallel many of us entered the field from a background in decision support and strategy.
Despite this varied background knowledge management is for good or ill defined by the technologies
of its common practice; the early growth coinciding with the early development of collaboration software
and the early growth of the internet and its internal corollary the intranet. Whatever the intention of its
founders knowledge management was soon hijacked by the technology providers, and most programmes
started with a taxonomy, progressed to communities of practice and then fell into disuse accompanied
by desperate questions from well-intentioned knowledge professionals which were variations of How
do I create a knowledge sharing culture. Curiously as the field of practice fell back to the late adopting
government sector academic interest suddenly surged. It is a telling comment that at the time of writing
academic conferences outweigh practitioner conferences to a significant degree.
Now, just as many of us thought knowledge management was, to quote Larry Prusak, a Deadman
walking we are suddenly seeing a resurgence of interest associated with the growth of social computing. It is as if knowledge management has finally found a technology platform which is fluid enough to
channel its promise; messily coherent, the product of voluntary adoption and above all validated, navigated and informed by social connection. For me this is best illustrated by a personal experience. Some
years ago I made a very public statement at a military institution in Washington to the effect that the US
Army had the best method I knew for knowledge capture, but the worst method I knew for knowledge
distribution. Technology was used to capture the experience and commentary of soldiers in the field
under fire, but that evocative and functional material was then distilled into doctrine and various other
manifestations of what is commonly referred to as best practice. The reception to my comment was
hostile to say the least, but five years later, in the same location I was told by a three star general that

xx

the only thing which had worked in Iraq was Platoon Commanders blogging. The need was for the raw
narrative of colleagues experience, not distilled and sanitized official documents, however well-meaning
and professional in their creation.
Some years ago in an article Complex Acts of Knowing I drew on anthropology to make a critical
distinction between two types of culture as follows:

Rule based
The socio-cultural system or the pattern of residence and resource exploitation that can be observed
directly, documented and measured in a fairly straightforward manner. The tools and other artifacts that
we use to create communities, the virtual environment we create and the way we create, distribute and
utilise assets within the community. These are teaching cultures that are aware of the knowledge that
needs to be transferred to the next generation and which create training programmes. They are characterised by their certainty or explicit knowability.

Ideation based
Cultures in this sense comprise systems of shared ideas, systems of concepts and rules and meanings
that underlie and are expressed in the ways that humans lived. Culture, so defined, refers to what humans
learn, not what they do and make. Such cultures are tacit in nature: networked, tribal and fluid. They
are learning cultures because they deal with ambiguity and uncertainty originating in the environment
or self-generated for innovative purposes
If we look at the pattern of knowledge management activity over the last two decades we can see the
domination of the rules based approaches. The creation of taxonomies appeals to the western tendency
to categorise material to death; taxonomy and taxidermy not only sound the same but produce similar
results namely a static and retrospective snap show on what we knew, rather than what we know or may
need to know. Formal communities of practice cater to the structured and explicit aspects of the organisation. Best practice documents in creation and promulgation focus on transfer of knowledge seen as a
thing, an object with discrete boundaries that exists independently of its social context. Trust is formal,
assumed by virtue of status and the various validation processes that allow material to be published.
Such an approach has much to commend it, within boundaries. For the stable aspects of information
and knowledge within an organisation the process of codification, validation and authentication is key
to ensure quality, legal compliance and the like. However it could not, and a priori cannot satisfy the
needs for knowledge flow to support decision making under conditions of uncertainty and innovation.
If we look at probably the most successful method for knowledge transfer that has evolved in human
society, namely apprentice schemes we can see that the emphasis is primarily on ideation based culture.
Yes there is formal teaching, but much of the learning comes from tolerated failure, imitating the masters
work, modifying it to match as yet under developed capabilities, talking with other apprentices, learning from them. After a period, the ritual walking of the tables indicates the achievement of journeyman
status, where greater autonomy also carries with it teaching duties and community responsibilities. The
field of work associated with an apprentice model is not static, it is constantly evolving through social
interaction and social convention. Knowledge is a series of flows within a social context.

xxi

Social computing in many ways mimics these environments but is informed and enabled by what I
call the publishing paradigm, a focus on push rather than pull in creating authority. Those who publish
interesting material in their blogs, or say/link to interesting things in tweets build networks of influence
in which learning takes place. The powerful bloggers are the new masters in a modern and distributed
system of learning. Anyone who blogs frequently will tell you that they mix formal material with insights
and indiscretions into their own histories and beliefs. Without the seasoning of personal revelation there
is no social connection, excessive revelation on the other hand is self-indulgent and the sphere of influence contracts. I used my own twitter network recently to solve a complex issue relating to translation
of Urdu in a project in crisis. The network created by the publishing paradigm had sufficient variety
and connectivity to respond to a need. Like many people I often use Twitter in preference to Google to
find key information; it is a socio-technical system not a semantic engine. These environments mimic
the common room and the water cooler but extend over both time and space to magnify their utility a
thousand fold.
Related to this we have the major shift from application dominated architectures to architectures in
which applications evolve through the interaction of objects both software and human in nature. The
growth of enterprise wide application software is a characteristic of the period in which knowledge
management technologies first emerged, and their early development mimicked those products. Requirements were captured through interview processes, designs were produced, software selected or built and
implementation plans produced. When things failed to survive beyond the initial hawthorn effect phase,
cultural change and other programmes were run in a futile attempt to force or cajole participation. Now
contrast that with social computing. A typical desk top contains multiple applications that interact with
each other seamlessly. No one uses Twitter directly, they use independently developed twitter clients such
as Nambu. RSS readers are changed frequently and often on a whim. New methods emerge (they are
never designed) such as hash tags in Twitter, that enable new pathways in unexpected and serendipitous
ways. The environment is messy, but it is coherent and it works.
One of the main reasons for this success is that the environment has a light constraint structure
in place. Without any constraint evolution of meaning is not possible; with heavy constraint we only
replicate what we already know without novelty or the emergence of insight. As such the systems now
more closely reflect the tribal and clan nature of humans: over 90% of our genetic history is as Pliocene
hunter gathers, a simple fact that we should try to remember. Our brains are pattern based intelligences,
we dont process information with any ease. We conceptually blend patterns in novel and interesting
ways to innovate in the context of threat or opportunity. The micro-narratives of day to day existence are
still the primary method of knowledge transfer from the expert engineer to the shopping queue. We are
homo narrans not homo economicus in our hearts as well as our minds. From neuro-science we know
that human consciousness is a distributed function, it is not confined to the brain but extends over the
hormonal and muscular systems as well as into the wider environment. That extended and intertwined
network of coherence is an essential feature of human intelligence and capability.
Technology can augment human intelligence, it cannot replace it; unless that is we dumb down our
intelligence and capability to the autistic linear processes that were all to characteristic of knowledge
management in its first two decades. We need to learn to embrace uncertainty not to reduce it, to understand that messy environments are natural to humans as they allow discovery in the context of current
need. We need to move from futile attempts at anticipation, to initiating states of anticipatory awareness

xxii

in which social networks respond to the unanticipated; above all we need knowledge management to
demonstrate wisdom by creating a synthesis of technology and human capability.
Dave Snowden
Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Cognitive Edge
Dave Snowden is the founder and chief scientific officer of Cognitive Edge. His work is international in nature and covers
government and industry looking at complex issues relating to strategy, organisational decision making and decision making.
He has pioneered a science based approach to organisations drawing on anthropology, neuroscience and complex adaptive
systems theory. He holds visiting Chairs at the Universities of Pretoria and Hong Kong Polytechnic Univeristy as well as
a visiting fellowship at the University of Warwick. He is a senior fellow at the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies at
Nanyang University and the Civil Service College in Singapore. His paper with Boone on Leadership was the cover article
for the Harvard Business Review in November 2007 and also won the Acadamy of Management aware for the best practitioner
paper in the same year. He has previously won a special award from the academy for originality in his work on micro narrative. He is a editorial board member of several academic and practitioner journals in the field of knowledge management and
is an Editor in Chief of E:CO. In 2006 he was Director of the EPSRC (UK) research programme on emergence and in 2007
was appointed to an NSF (US) review panel on complexity science research. He previously worked for IBM where he was a
Director of the Institution for Knowledge Management and founded the Cynefin Centre for Organisational Complexity; during
that period he was selected by IBM as one of six on-demand thinkers for a worldwide advertising campaign.

xxiii

Preface

TOWARD AN UNDERSTANDING OF SOCIAL KNOWLEDGE


The Challenge
For the past two decades, executives have struggled to develop effective ways of sharing what their
organizations know. Organizational leaders are now seeking ways to share knowledge with both internal and external stakeholders driven by concerns such as downsizing, the impending retirement of
baby boomers, terrorism, and a host of other organizational challenges. Despite the best efforts of many
innovative leaders, few organizations have achieved the desired level of knowledge sharing. This is
certainly not due to a lack of energy, enthusiasm, or excitement on the part of managers, but rather the
result of immature, complicated, and expensive tools, techniques, and technologies. Equally, a culture
based on a need-to-know rather than one based on a need-to-share prevented the transparency necessary
to achieve organizational knowledge goals.
Today we are seeing some very promising results from third-generation knowledge projects, which
focus on connecting people and facilitating collaboration. Many organizations are now reaping the benefits
of using social media such as wikis for collaboration and social networking tools for connecting people.
These emerging tools and techniques provide flexible, agile, and intuitive solutions for connecting people
with people and facilitating coordination, communication, and collaboration (Girard & Girard, 2009).
Unlike first-generation knowledge projects, which focused on collecting and capturing knowledge,
or second-generation projects, which sought to codify tacit knowledge, these third-generation projects
are very social in nature. The projects seek to connect people with people who in turn will share what
they know. Although much of what they know is in the tacit form the projects do not rely on codification
but rather connection. Consider the following quote from Clever : Leading your smartest, most creative
people, which emphasises our point:
The knowledge of clever people is tacit. It is embedded in them. If it were possible to capture their
knowledge within the organizational fabric, then all that would be required would be better knowledge
management systems. It isnt. (In fact, as alluded to by Kamlesh Pande [an HR manager in organization
under study], one of the great disappointments of knowledge management initiatives to date is their
failure to capture clever knowledge.) For the people we are talking about, a great deal of their cleverness resides not in what they know but who they know and how they know it (Goffee & Jones, 2009)

xxiv

The focus of this book is third-generation knowledge projects. Our interest, like many organizational
leaders, is how we can apply the social tools, techniques, and technologies to better know what we know.
This quest, knowing what we know from an organizational point of view, is not new. Carla ODell and
Jack Grayson (1998), authors of If Only We Knew What We Know, empowered many organizational leaders
by outlining successes in the transfer of internal knowledge. Their pioneering work sparked a knowledge
revolution that substantially enhanced the state of knowledge management in many organizations. Today
we are ready for the next revolution, one that focuses on the social side of knowledge transfer.

The Wisdom of Many


As is often the case when the academic and business worlds collide, there is some debate about the
exact meaning of the term Social Knowledge. We do not attempt to curtail this debate, as it would be
premature to expect consensus in this nascent field. That said, we did provide the following definition
to the chapter authors to begin the debate:
Social Knowledge is the use of social media to create, transfer, and preserve organizational knowledge
past, present, and future with a view to achieving the organizational vision.
This book is particularly unique in several distinct ways. First, this is one of the very first collections
to consider what leaders should be doing today to enhance the intellectual capital of their organization
through the strategic use of social media. Second, the book considers social knowledge in the broadest
possible way. To be sure, some will question the breadth and depth of the domain as articulated by the
authors. In fact, as we launched this book we underestimated the scope of the domain and we have been
surprised at how many innovative tools, techniques, and technologies are in place or under consideration.
Third, this book includes chapters from a diverse group of interested parties; this diversity is geographic,
linguistic, professional, and experiential.
The book is organized into 15 chapters based on our definition of social knowledge. The first five
chapters chronicle social knowledge in action. The next four chapters focus on the cultural components
of social knowledge. The final six chapters examine social knowledge tools, techniques, and technologies. Together these three sections provide an exciting look at how executives may use the enablers and
components to achieve their organizational vision.

Section 1: Social Knowledge in Action


In Chapter 1, David and Alex Bennet (2011) explore the factors and conditions which influence the
social creation and sharing of knowledge. Their exploration includes clear definitions of information,
knowledge and learning. The Bennets discuss social interaction, including environmental impacts on
the creations and sharing of knowledge and they close with an insightful examination of the individual
learning and knowledge activity at the societal level.
In Chapter 2, Kimiz Dalkir (2011) focuses on how social network analysis (SNA) can be used to
assess the quantity and quality of connection, communication and collaboration mediated by social
tools in an organization. A real-life case study illustrates how SNA can be used in a pre-test/post-test
evaluation design to conduct a comparative assessment of methods that can be used before, during and

xxv

after the implementation of organizational change in work processes. Dalikr suggests SNA is a good
candidate to analyze the connections between people and content as well as people with other people.
In Chapter 3, Suzanne Roff-Wexler, Loretta L. Donovan, and Salvatore Rasa (2011) explore the assumptions we make, the questions we ask, and the social knowledge we use to make decisions about
our personal and business lives. Personal experiences and anecdotes provide context for scholarly ideas
and references. The chapter offers its readers a method to continue the dialogue.
In Chapter 4, Cindy Gordon (2011) argues that innovation growth is tightly tied to the collaborative
process of socializing knowledge. In this chapter, Gordon tells the story of change agents that are helping to move from vision to execution successfully. Each of her cases is rooted in a clear business need
either for employee engagement or customer engagement needs.
In Chapter 5, Benjamin Hentschel and Parissa Haghirian (2011) describe a qualitative study conducted
in a Japanese organization. Specifically, they investigate the extent to which social knowledge influences
communicative behavior, and looks at the implications for organizational communication patterns in
Japan. The findings of this study point towards changing patterns of social knowledge in Japanese firms.

Section 2: Cultural Aspects of Social Knowledge


In Chapter 6, Andrew Miller (2011) considers what cultural barriers are being raised against social media
adoption and how can management re-align their understanding of social media to better utilize resources
and take advantage of the opportunities this technology presents? He describes how organizations who
harness the massive data warehouses behind social media networks have the ability to significantly alter
individual lives and society at large; for better or worse.
In Chapter 7, Paul McBride (2011) describes how and why organizational culture is paramount
towards endeavors of social knowledge and knowledge management systems. He argues that a culture
based on honesty, trust, and openness is best suited for knowledge management. McBride suggests
organizations that employ social media to aid in culture development will build systems of knowledge
management that lead to competitive advantage.
In Chapter 8, Scott Mackintosh (2011) describes the militarys approach to social media and outlines
the security controversy it views as an inherent issue associated with condoning and promoting the use
of social media. He discusses the use of social media as a vehicle of transformational leadership.
Mackintosh makes recommendations to facilitate a better adoption of various forms of social media
by the military.
In Chapter 9, Nhu T. B Nguyen and Katsuhiro Umemoto (2011) conducted the first study that investigated the process of cross-cultural knowledge creation and the role of leadership in this process. Their
findings will contribute to developing KM in a new way that can be applied to practices in utilizing and
creating cross-cultural knowledge for KM activities. In addition, they offer many practical implications
for leaders to manage effectively cross-cultural knowledge of members in organizations.

Section 3: Social Knowledge Tools, Techniques, and Technologies


In Chapter 10, Stefania Mariano (2011) provides a practical approach for managing social media. Her
study investigates how knowledge is created, transferred, and shared in social media and proposes a
way to manage social knowledge. Marianos findings revealed that knowledge transfer was the primary

xxvi

knowledge process in the management of the Web log and highlighted common issues, concerns, and
suggestions on how to develop a more effective virtual social environment.
In Chapter 11, Nick Bowersox (2011) provides practical ways in which the United States Air Force
can increase participation in Virtual Communities of Practice (VCoPs) among its workforce, as well as
providing theoretical frameworks upon which further research can be conducted. He proposes a set of
testable propositions that may serve as the basis for future research.
In Chapter 12, Jagdish K Vasishtha (2011) discusses the needs of knowledge workers for effective
knowledge capture and team collaboration. His analysis considers knowledge fragmentation due to technology, relevancy of information to a user, and Push vs. Pull approaches of accessing information. He
also explores how these challenges can be addressed by social knowledge workspaces and what should
be some of the key characteristics of these technologies under development.
(2011) evaluates the contribution of shared knowledge and informaIn Chapter 13, Haris Papoutsakis
tion technology to manufacturing performance. His findings are useful to researchers and the business
community alike as they may be used as a springboard for further empirical studies and can help put
together strategies involving knowledge management and information technology.
In Chapter 14, Chethan M and Mohan Ramanathan (2011) explore the convergence of many ideas
and innovations and the technology that is building these networks. They argue that social networks have
changed the way people connect, redefining the knowledge value system that is being shared without
borders or limits.
In Chapter 15, Fjodor Ruzic (2011) suggests that social knowledge is not a new category; however,
in these times of information-communications systems maturity, it becomes an extremely important
and valuable asset. He finds that in the context of social knowledge, information technology should be
constantly harmonized with cultural milieu characterized mostly by invisible culture and its actions.

REFERENCES
Bennet, D., & Bennet, A. (2011). Social Learning from the Inside Out: The Creation and Sharing of
Knowledge from the Mind/Brain Perspective. In Girard, J. P. & Girard, J.L. (Eds.), Social Knowledge:
Using Social Media to Know What You Know. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Bowersox, N. (2011). Encouraging Participation in Virtual Communities of Practice within the United
States Air Force. In Girard, J. P. & Girard, J.L. (Eds.), Social Knowledge: Using Social Media to Know
What You Know. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Dalkir, K. (2011). Measuring the Impact of Social Media: Connection, Communication and Collaboration. In Girard, J. P. & Girard, J.L. (Eds.), Social Knowledge: Using Social Media to Know What You
Know. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Girard, J. P., & Girard, J. L. (2009). A Leaders Guide to Knowledge Management: Drawing on the Past
to Enhance Future Performance. New York: Business Expert Press.
Goffee, R., & Jones, G. (2009). Clevr : leading your smartest, most creative people. Bostons.MA: Harvard Business Press.

xxvii

Gordon, C. (2011). Social Knowledge Case Study: Innovation Linked to the Collaborative Socialization
of Knowledge. In Girard, J. P. & Girard, J.L. (Eds.), Social Knowledge: Using Social Media to Know
What You Know. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Hentschel, B., & Haghirian, P. (2011). Social Knowledge in the Japanese Firm. In Girard, J. P. & Girard,
J.L. (Eds.), Social Knowledge: Using Social Media to Know What You Know. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
M, C. & Ramanathan, M. (2011). Social Knowledge: The Technology behind. In Girard, J. P. & Girard,
J.L. (Eds.), Social Knowledge: Using Social Media to Know What You Know. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Mackintosh, S. (2011). Social Leadership: Exploring Social Media and the Military A New Leadership
Tool. In Girard, J. P. & Girard, J.L. (Eds.), Social Knowledge: Using Social Media to Know What You
Know. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Mariano, S. (2011). Becoming a Blogger: A Social Knowledge Experiment. In Girard, J. P. & Girard,
J.L. (Eds.), Social Knowledge: Using Social Media to Know What You Know. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Miller, A. (2011). Cultural Barriers to Organizational Social Media Adoption. In Girard, J. P. & Girard,
J.L. (Eds.), Social Knowledge: Using Social Media to Know What You Know. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
McBride, P. (2011). Organizational Culture: A Pillar for Knowledge Management. In Girard, J. P. & Girard,
J.L. (Eds.), Social Knowledge: Using Social Media to Know What You Know. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Nguyen, N., & Umemoto, K. (2011). Foundations of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management. In Girard,
J. P. & Girard, J.L. (Eds.), Social Knowledge: Using Social Media to Know What You Know. Hershey,
PA: IGI Global.
ODell, C., Grayson, C. J., & Essaides, N. (1998). If only we knew what we know: the transfer of internal
knowledge and best practice. New York: Free Press.
Papoutsakis, H. (2011). Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry:
An Evaluation Model. In Girard, J. P. & Girard, J.L. (Eds.), Social Knowledge: Using Social Media to
Know What You Know. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Roff-Wexler, S., Donovan, L., & Rasa, S. (2011). Challenging our Assumptions: Making Sense of the
Sharing of Social Knowlege . In Girard, J. P. & Girard, J.L. (Eds.), Social Knowledge: Using Social
Media to Know What You Know. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Ruzic, F. (2011). Empowering Social Knowledge with Information Technology: Technological and Cultural Issues Convergence. In Girard, J. P. & Girard, J.L. (Eds.), Social Knowledge: Using Social Media
to Know What You Know. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Vasishtha, J. (2011). Social Knowledge Workspace. In Girard, J. P. & Girard, J.L. (Eds.), Social Knowledge: Using Social Media to Know What You Know. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

John P. Girard
Minot State University, USA
JoAnn L. Girard
Sagology, USA

xxviii

Acknowledgment

We would like to acknowledge and thank all of those involved in the development of this book. The entire
team at IGI Global was very supportive and helpful. In particular, we wish to thank Julia Mosemann,
the Development Editor at IGI Global. Her patience was amazing (and appreciated) while her guidance
was always timely, useful, and valued.
The team of reviewers deserves special attention as they very generously provided their time and
expertise to ensure a high-quality review process. Often the work associated with chapter review is
underestimated and forgotten thanks to all of you for your great work.
Thank you also to the Advisory Board members, all of whom helped us bring you this collection of
thoughts about Social Knowledge. Each of the Board members is a very busy expert in their field and
we certainly appreciate their participation in this project.
Finally, we would like to thank the leading researchers and practitioners who contributed chapters
to this book. They generously volunteered their intellectual capital and were brave enough to share
their initial thoughts about this emerging and exciting domain. Without their insights, this book would
simply not be possible.
John P. Girard
Editor
john@johngirard.net
www.johngirard.net
JoAnn L. Girard
Editor
joann@sagology.com
www.sagology.com

Section 1

Social Knowledge in Action

Chapter 1

Social Learning from


the Inside Out:

The Creation and Sharing of Knowledge


from the Mind/Brain Perspective
David Bennet
Mountain Quest Institute, USA
Alex Bennet
Mountain Quest Institute, USA

ABSTRACT
This chapter explores from the viewpoint of the mind/brain the factors and conditions which influence
the social creation and sharing of knowledge. A foundation is developed by providing clear definitions of
information, knowledge and learning, including levels of knowledge and the process through which the
mind/brain creates new knowledge. Then neuroscience findings are used to discuss social interaction,
including environmental impacts on the creation and sharing of knowledge. Factors such as arousal and
stress level, social attunement, holding environment, intersubjective space, level of trust, social bonding,
and an enriched external environment are posited to enhance the creation and sharing of knowledge.
Finally, the individual learning and knowledge activity is extrapolated to the societal level through a
short introduction to collaborative entanglement (learning to create and apply knowledge as communities), and the use of metaphor and story. Summary highlights of neuroscience findings are also provided.

INTRODUCTION
We are social creatures. While this concept has
been around for centuries, Cozolino believes that
we are just waking up to this fact from a biological
perspective. As he describes,

As a species, we are just waking up to the complexity of our own brains, to say nothing of how
brains are linked together. We are just beginning
to understand that we have evolved as social creatures and that all of our biologies are interwoven.
(Cozolino, 2006, p. 3)

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-203-1.ch001
Copyright 2011, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.

Social Learning from the Inside Out

While humans have studied the brain since


ancient Greece and perhaps before that, neuroscience is a very young field. Although an
association of professional scientists known
as The Society for Neuroscience was formed
in 1970 (Bear, Connors, & Paradiso, 2001), it
wasnt until the development of measurement
and excitation technology (George, 2007; Ward,
2006) in the early 1990s that the field began to
flourish. Examples of these technologies include
functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI),
the electroencephalograph (EEG), and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS); (George, 2007;
Kurzweil, 2005; Ward, 2006). fMRI is used for
neuroimaging to produce precise measurements
of brain structure activity (Hyman, 2007). EEG is
another noninvasive technique that measures the
average electrical activity of large populations of
neurons (Nicolelis and Chapin, 2007). TMS uses
head-mounted wire coils that send very short but
strong magnetic pulses directly into specific brain
regions that induce low-level electric currents into
the brains neural circuits, and appears to be able
to turn on and off particular parts of the human
brain (George, 2007, p. 21).
Simultaneously, because of increasing computational power, the field of neuroanatomy has
become a central aspect of neuroscience. Neuroanatomy is the branch of anatomy that deals
with the nervous system. The first comprehensive
volume in this field, edited by Giorgio Ascoli, head
of the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at
George Mason University and published in 2002,
defines this field as, the use of computer
models, simulations, and visualizations to gain a
deeper understanding of the complexity of nervous
system structures (p. v).
Collectively, these advancements are steadily
providing new information on how the mind/
brain works. The term mind/brain connotes
the combination of the physiological brain and
the mind, that is, the patterns of neuron connections, the strengths of those connections, and the
signals they send to other neurons that exist in

the brain. The neuroscience findings that have


emerged since the 1990s form the foundation of
this paper. With learning and knowledge at the
core of our exploration, we will (1) develop a
common understanding of baseline definitions;
(2) discuss the creation and sharing of knowledge from the viewpoint of the mind/brain; (3)
discuss social interaction and the mind/brain,
including environmental impacts on the creation
and sharing of knowledge; and (4) extrapolate
the individual learning and knowledge activity
to the societal level through a short introduction
to collaborative entanglement (learning to create
knowledge as communities), and then the use of
metaphor and story.

DEVELOPING A COMMON
UNDERSTANDING
Embracing Stoniers description of information as
a basic property of the Universeas fundamental as matter and energy (Stonier, 1990; Stonier,
1997)we take the amount of information to be
a measure of the degree of organization expressed
by any non-random pattern or set of patterns. The
order of a system is a reflection of the information
content of the system. Data (a form of information)
would then be simple patterns, and while data and
information would both be patterns, they would
have no meaning until some organism recognized
and interpreted the patterns (Bennet and Bennet,
2006a, 2008c). Thus knowledge exists in the
human brain in the form of stored or expressed
neuronal patterns that may be activated and reflected upon through conscious or unconscious
thought. This is a high-level description of the
creation of knowledge that is consistent with the
neuronal operation of the brain and is applicable
in varying degrees to all living organisms. From
this process neuronal patterns are created that may
represent understanding, meaning and the capacity to anticipate (to various degrees) the results of
potential actions. Thus it is not just information

Social Learning from the Inside Out

that characterizes knowledge, but the relationships


or associations (in space and time) among that information. Through this process of associating (or
complexing), the mind is continuously growing,
restructuring the physiology of the brain, creating increased organization (information), and by
doing so, changing.
Taking a functional approach, our definition
of knowledge then becomes: knowledge is the
capacity (potential or actual) to take effective
action in varied and uncertain situations (Bennet and Bennet, 2004). Knowledge consists of
comprehension, understanding, meaning, insight,
intuition, creativity, judgment, and the ability to
anticipate the outcome of our actions. Recognizing that knowledge is the result of associative
patterning in the brain and consistent with our
understanding of information and that the relationships among information define knowledge, we
choose to consider knowledge as comprised of
two parts: Knowledge (Informing) and Knowledge
(Proceeding). This also builds on the distinction
made by Ryle (1949) between knowing that
and knowing how.
Knowledge (Informing), or KnI, is the information (or content) part of knowledge. While this
information part of knowledge is still generically
information (organized patterns), it is special
because of its structure and relationships with
other information. KnI consists of information
that represents insights, meaning, understanding,
expectations, theories and principles that support
or lead to effective action. When viewed separately
this is information that may lead to effective action.
However, it is considered knowledge when it is
used as part of the knowledge process.
Knowledge (Proceeding), KnP, represents the
process and action part of knowledge. KnP is the
process of selecting, associating and applying the
relevant information (KnI) from which specific
actions can be identified and implemented, that
is, actions that result in some level of effective
outcome. There is considerable precedence for
considering knowledge as a process versus an

outcome. As Kolb (1983) forwards in his theory


of experiential learning, knowledge retrieval,
creation and application requires engaging knowledge as a process, not a product. The process our
minds use to find, create and semantically mix
the information needed to take effective action is
often unconscious and difficult to communicate
to someone else. The more complex a situation,
the more difficult to find a solution, and the
larger the role played by tacit knowledge in our
unconscious mind (Goldberg, 2005; Bennet and
Bennet, 2008b).
Knowledge can also be considered in terms
of surface, shallow and deep levels. Surface
knowledge is predominantly but not exclusively
information. Answering the question of what,
when, where and who, it is primarily explicit, and
represents visible choices that require minimum
understanding. Further, little action is typically
required; it is more of an awareness of what is
on the part of the receiver.
Surface knowledge in the form of information
can be stored in books and computers, and the
mind/brain. Much of our everyday life such as
light conversations, descriptions and even selfreflection could be considered surface thinking
and learning that creates surface knowledge.
Perhaps too much of what is taught in schools is
focused on awareness and memorization (surface
knowledge) with inadequate focus on understanding or meaning. For example, the National
Research Council has expressed concern that the
U.S. education system teaches students science
using a mile wide and inch deep approach (National Research Council, 2000; Oakes and Lipton,
1999). The emphasis is on surface learning, that
is, learning that relies primarily on short term
memorizationcramming facts, data, concepts
and information to pass quizzes and exams
deep learning asks that we create and re-create our
own personal understanding (Chickering et al.,
2005, pp. 132-133). Further, surface knowledge is
frequently difficult to remember and easy to forget
because it has little meaning to improve recall,

Social Learning from the Inside Out

and few connections to other stored memories


(Sousa, 2006).
Shallow knowledge is when you have information plus some understanding, meaning and
sense-making. To understand is to make some
level of meaning, with meaning typically relating to an individual or organization and implying
some level of action. To make meaning requires
context; meaning is something the individual
creates from the received information and their
own internal information, a process of creating
KnP. Shallow knowledge requires a level of understanding and meaning such that the knowledge
maker can identify cohesion and integration of
the information in a manner that makes sense.
This meaning can be created via logic, analysis, observation, reflection, and evento some
extentprediction. In an organizational setting
shallow knowledge emerges (and grows) through
social interactions as employees move through the
processes and practices of the organization. For
example, organizations that embrace the use of
teams and communities facilitate the mobilization
of knowledge and the creation of new ideas as
individuals interact in those groups.
With deep knowledge one has developed and
integrated many if not all of the following seven
components: understanding, meaning, insight,
creativity, intuition, judgment, and the ability to
anticipate the outcome of ones actions. Deep
knowledge represents the ability to shift your frame
of reference as the context and situation shift.
Since KnP must be created in order to know when
and how to take effective action, the unconscious
plays a large role in this area. The source of deep
KnP lies in your creativity, intuition, forecasting
experience, pattern recognition, and use of theories
(also important in shallow knowledge situations).
Deep knowledge is the realm of the expert. The
experts unconscious has learned to detect patterns
and evaluate their importance in anticipating the
behavior of situations that are too complex for
the conscious mind to understand. During the
lengthy period of practice needed to develop deep

knowledgea lived experiencethe expert


has often developed an internal theory that guides
her KnP. Gathered through what is called effortful
practice through a process of chunking, much of
this knowledge resides within the unconscious and
surfaces only when the individual takes an action
or makes a decision based on feel or intuition.
Learning is the process of creating knowledge
(the capacity to take effective action). From an
evolutionary perspective, those individuals who
could observe, experience and take the best
actionswhether it was to take flight, attack,
or hidehad the best chance of survival. This
capability to understand and see the meaning of
a situation, and then figure out what to do and do
it, we call knowledge. As the mind/brain evolved
over thousands of years, it created the capacity
to learn and act on what it learned. The advent
of brain imaging allows us to watch the neurophysiology of learning unfold. Not only can we
trace the pathways of the brain involved in various
learning tasks, but we can also infer which learning environments are most likely to be effective
(Johnson and Taylor, 2006, p. 1).
While there are many ways to learnselfreflection, observing others, our own instincts,
etc.as the value of knowledge sharing has
been proven, the art of social communication
and interactions has become an essential aspect
of our organizations and communities. This shift
has prompted an exponential growth in learning
from each other, without the penalty of other
individuals mistakes.

CREATING AND SHARING


KNOWLEDGE IN THE MIND/BRAIN
The brain stores information in the form of patterns
of neurons, their connections (synapses), small
electrical pulses, and the strength between those
connections. These patterns represent thoughts,
images, beliefs, theories, emotions, and so on. A
single thought could be represented in the brain by

Social Learning from the Inside Out

a network of a million neurons, with each neuron


connecting to anywhere from 1 to 10,000 other
neurons (Ratey, 2001). Although the patterns
themselves are nonphysical, their existence as
represented by neuronal cells and their connections are physical, that is, composed of atoms,
molecules and cells. If we consider the mind
as the totality of neuronal patterns, then we can
consider the mind and the brain to be connected
in the sense that the patterns (mind) cannot exist
without the brain (atoms, molecules, and neuronal
cells), yet the brain would have no mind if it had
no neuronal patterns. We have previously used
a metaphor to understand this relationship: The
mind is to the brain as waves of the ocean are to
the water in the ocean (Bennet and Bennet, 2008c).
Even this is simplified because surrounding the
neurons are other cells and continuous flows of
blood, hormones, and other chemicals which have
complex interactions within the brain (Pert, 1997;
Church, 2006). The power of the metaphor derives
from the relationship between the neuronal network patterns used to represent the external (and
internal) world of concepts, thoughts, objects, and
relationships and the physical neurons and other
material in the brain.
To get some idea of the density and intricacies
of the brain, consider the following: A piece of
brain tissue the size of a grain of sand contains a
hundred thousand neurons and one billion synapses, all talking to one another (Amen, 2005, p.
20). As another example, consider the following
description of how the brain creates patterns of
the mind. Antonio Damasio uses the term movie
as a metaphor for the diverse sensory images and
signals that create a show and flow we call mind. In
the following quote Damasio also brings out a few
of the large number of semi-independent systems
in the brain that work together to make patterns
that make sense of our external environment.
Further remarkable progress involving aspects
of the movie-in-the-brain has led to increased
insights related to mechanisms for learning

and memory. In rapid succession, research has


revealed that the brain uses discrete systems for
different types of learning. The basal ganglia
and cerebellum are critical for the acquisition
of skillsfor example, learning to ride a bicycle
or play a musical instrument. The hippocampus
is integral to the learning of facts pertaining to
such entities as people, places or events. And once
facts are learned, the long-term memory of those
facts relies on multi-component brain systems,
whose key parts are located in the vast brain
expanses known as cerebral cortices. (Damasio,
2007, pps. 63-64)
We learn by changing incoming physical
signals (images, sounds, smells, sensations of
the body) into patterns (of the mind and within
the brain) that we identify with specific external
concepts, objects, or relationships. These incoming
neuronal patterns have internal associations with
other internal patterns that represent (to varying
degrees of fidelity) the corresponding associations
in the external world. Thus we re-present external
reality through the creation and association of internal patterns of neuron firings and connections.
Stonier (1997) refers to this process as semantic
mixing or complexing.
Incoming external information (new information) is mixed, or associated, with internal
information, creating new neuronal patterns that
may represent understanding, meaning, and/or
the anticipation of the consequences of actions,
in other words, knowledge (Stonier, 1997). The
term associative patterning describes this continuous process of learning by creating new patterns
of the mind and stored in the brain (Bennet and
Bennet, 2006a, 2008c). From the viewpoint of the
mind/brain, any knowledge that is being re-used
is actually being re-created and, in an area of
continuing interest, most likely complexed over
and over again as incoming information is associated with internal information (Stonier, 1997).
During reflection, the mind/brain is thinking about
the incoming concepts, ideas, objects, and their

Social Learning from the Inside Out

relationships by associating them with various


internal neuron patterns.
If Knowledge (Informing) is different, there is
a good chance that Knowledge (Proceeding) will
be different. Recall that Knowledge (Proceeding) is the process of pulling up and sequencing
associated Knowledge (Informing) and semantically complexing it with incoming information to
make it comprehensible. In essence, every time
we apply knowledge (Informing and Proceeding)
it is to some extent new knowledge because the
human mindunlike an information management
systemunconsciously tailors what is emerging
as knowledge to the situation at hand (Edelman
& Tononi, 2000). See Bennet and Bennet (2008a)
for an in-depth treatment of knowledge reuse.
A significant aspect of the mind/brain is its
capability to continually make sense of its environment and anticipate whats coming next. As
Buzsaki (2006) states,
brains are foretelling devices and their predictive
powers emerge from the various rhythms they
perpetually generate ... The specific physiological
functions of brain rhythms vary from the obvious
to the utterly impenetrable. (p. vii).
In other words, our behavior is closely related
to our capacity to form accurate predictions. This
perspective is reinforced by the neuroscientist
Rudolfo Llinas (2001) who considered predicting
the outcome of future events as the most important and common of all global brain functions.
The sense of movement of the body provides a
simple demonstration of the needand powerof
anticipating the future. Imagine walking down a
staircase and accidentally missing a step, recognizing the surprise one has when beginning to fall
(Hawkins, 2004). Since for thousands of years
survival has depended upon humans being capable
of anticipating their environment and taking the
right actions to survive, perhaps it should be no
surprise that that capability has come through
the evolution of the brain. As Damasio explains,

survival in a complex environment, that is, efficient management of life regulation, depends
on taking the right action, and that, in turn, can
be greatly improved by purposeful preview and
manipulation of images in mind and optimal
planning. Consciousness allowed the connection
of the two disparate aspects of the processinner life regulation and image making. (Damaso,
1999, p. 24)
One way the brain anticipates the future is
through the process of storing sequences of patterns. Since we never see the same world twice,
the brain (as distinct from a computer) does not
store exact replicas of past events or memories.
Rather, it stores invariant representations. These
forms represent the basic source of recognition and
understanding of the broader patterns (Hawkins,
2004).
Marchese (1998) points out, when you see a
picture, only about 20% of what you are seeing
is brought into your brain; the other 80% of that
image comes from information, ideas, and feelings
already in your brain. The point is that the mind/
brain doesnt store memories like a computer, that
is, storing everything that comes in. It stores the
core of the picture, what was referred to above
as an invariant (Hawkins, 2004).
For example, if you see your friend from
the side or back you can usually recognize who
they are since your mind has stored a core basic
memory that includes major features of that person (Begley, 2007; Hawkins, 2004). When you
see your friend, your mind is filling in the blanks
and you recognize the incoming image as your
friend. There is also robustness in the way the
brain stores core memories. Assume that it takes
a million neurons to create a specific pattern (the
core part of incoming information), the brain may
set aside 1.4 million neurons with their connections
as space for that pattern, providing a looseness to
account for future associative changes, or dying
cells (Hawkins, 2004). Thus for this particular
pattern you could lose tens of thousands of brain

Social Learning from the Inside Out

cells related to the pattern and still have significant


aspects of the core memory available for future
retrieval via re-creation.
Further complicating the situation, at the same
time you catch sight of your friend and are smiling, getting ready to call out and wave, you may
be swatting gnats away from your eyes, shivering
from a soft breeze, registering the dark clouds
moving in from the west, feeling hunger pains
in your stomach, and sensing a soreness in your
little toe from tight shoes, and so on. The brain
is multidimensional, simultaneously processing
visual, aural, olfactory, and kinesthetic sensory
inputs and, as discussed above, combining them
with mental thoughts and emotional feelings to
create an internal perception and feeling of external
awareness (Bennet, 2006).
According to Hawkins (2004), the problem
of understanding how your cortex forms invariant representations remains one of the biggest
mysteries in all of science (p. 78). It is so much
so that no one, not even using the most powerful
computers in the world, are able to solve it. And
it isnt for a lack of trying (p.78). As the Nobel
Laurate Eric Kandel explains,
By storing memories in invariant forms, individuals are able to apply memories to situations that
are similar but not identical to previous experiences. Cognitive psychologists would describe
this as developing an internal representation of
the external world, a cognitive map that generates a meaningful image or interpretation of our
experience. (Kandel, 2006, p. 298)
As discussed above, the brain is simultaneously
identifying and storing core patterns (invariant
forms) from incoming information; in other words,
there is a hierarchy of information (Bennet and
Bennet, 2006b) where hierarchy represents an
order of some complexity, in which the elements
are distributed along the gradient of importance
(Kuntz, 1968, p. 162). A hierarchy of knowledge is
analogous to the physical design of the neocortex,

a sheet of cells the size of a dinner napkin as


thick as six business cards, where the connections
between various regions give the whole thing a
hierarchical structure (Hawkins, 2004, p. 109).
In a hierarchy the dominant structural element
may be a central point such as in a circular structure,
or have an axial symmetry. Wherever the central
point (dominant structure) is located, each part is
determined by where it is located in relation to
that central point. While it is true that in a radial
version of hierarchy the entire pattern may depend
directly on the open center, most hierarchies
consist of groups of subordinate hierarchies who
in turn have groups of subordinate hierarchies,
with each group having its own particular relation
to the dominant center point (Kuntz, 1968). The
higher-level pattern stored in the brain could be
described as a pattern of patterns with possibly
both hierarchical and associative relationships to
other patterns. See Bennet and Bennet (2006b) for
an in-depth treatment of hierarchy as a learning
platform.
Considering the brain as a semi-independent
subcomponent of the body that contains a hierarchy of patterns associated with other patterns,
the higher level (core) patterns would retain their
associations (in terms of meaning, understanding, and anticipation of the future) even as the
lower level patterns (internal information that is
situation dependent) are re-created in response
to new incoming information. A recent study of
chess players showed that experts examined the
chessboard patterns (not the pieces) over and over
again, looking at nuances, generally playing
with and studying these patterns. Ross (2006)
noted that their ability to chunk patterns for ease
of memory and retrieval was a significant part of
their success.
The above discussion brings home the fact
that the mind/brain develops robustness and
deep understanding derived from its capacity
to use past learning and memories to complete
incoming information and instead of storing all
the details, it stores only meaningful information.

Social Learning from the Inside Out

Figure 1. Social creation of knowledge

This provides the ability to create and store higher


level patterns while simultaneously semantically
complexing incoming information with internal
memories, adapting those memories to the situation at hand. Through these processes the brain
supports survival and sustainability in a complex
and unpredictable world. How do these mental
processes affect social learning and information
exchanges? Figure 1 is a graphical overview of
several key factors of associative patterning and
their relationship to the social creation of knowledge discussed in the following section.

SOCIAL INTERACTION AND THE


MIND/BRAIN
When two people meet there may be a large
amount of information (and only information)
exchanged between them. Visibly, when they first
see each other, light waves (or photons) travel

between them, communicating patterns of movement, colors, pictures such as facial expressions,
and sound waves as they speak or walk. Each
person automatically creates in their own mind
images, thoughts, feelings and an overall sense
regarding the entire situation, including the surrounding environment. Much of this information
is automatically processed by our unconscious,
sometimes influencing our behavior and feelings
before we become conscious of them.
All of this is primarily information (ordered
patterns) or, at best, what could be called surface
knowledge. It is not shallow or deep knowledge
as described above. These latter knowledges can
only be created by each person within their own
mind/brain by thinking about the information
coming in through the senses. Since we each have
unique autobiographies, different belief systems
and personal goals, to create knowledge (that is,
understanding, meaning, insight, etc.) we must mix
the incoming information with our own internal

Social Learning from the Inside Out

thought patterns as discussed above. This mixing


process is most effective if there is a dialogue or
affirmative inquiry process between two people.
Amen (2005) says that physical exercise, mental exercise and social bonding are the best sources
of stimulation of the brain. Social neuroscience is
the aspect of neuroscience dealing with the brain
mechanisms of social interaction. Studies in social
neuroscience have affirmed that over the course
of evolution physical mechanisms have developed
in our brains to enable us to learn through social
interactions. Johnson says that these physical
mechanisms have evolved to enable us to get the
knowledge we need in order to keep emotionally
and physically safe (Johnson, 2006, p. 65). She
also suggests that these mechanisms enable us to:
1. Engage in affective attunement or empathic
interaction and language,
2. Consider the intentions of the other,
3. Try to understand what another mind is
thinking, and
4. Think about how we want to interact.
(Johnson, 2006, p. 65)
People are in continuous, two-way interaction with those around them, and the brain is
continuously changing in response. As Cozolino
and Sprokay explain,
It is becoming more evident that through emotional facial expressions, physical contact, and
eye gazeeven through pupil dilation and blushingpeople are in constant, if often unconscious,
two-way communication with those around them.
It is in the matrix of this contact that brains are
sculpted, balanced and made healthy. (Cozolino
and Sprokay, 2006, p. 13)
Through these interactions, the genes are
operating options that are tested as an environment provides input that results in behavior
(Bownds, 1999, p. 169). Which supporting neuronal pathways become permanent depend on the

usefulness of the behavior in enhancing survival


and reproduction (Bownds, 1999). During this
process, social preferences are also being developed. Tallis (2002) says that peoples day-to-day
social preferences are most likely influenced by
unconscious learning. As he describes,
Human beings are constantly forming positive or
negative opinions of others, and often after minimal social contact. If challenged, opinions can be
justified, but such justifications frequently take the
form of post-hoc rationalization. Some, of course,
are laughably transparent. (Tallis, 2002, p. 129)
The literature suggests that there are specific
changes within the brain that occur through enriched environments, that is, when the surrounding
contains many interesting and thought-provoking
ideas, pictures, books, statues, etc. Specifically,
thicker cortices are created, there are larger cell
bodies, and dendritic branching in the brain is
more extensive. These are physiological changes
in response to the environment, the feelings, and
the learning of the participants. These changes
have been directly connected to higher levels
of intelligence and performance (Begley, 2007;
Byrnes, 2001; Jensen, 1998). Byrnes sees the
results of research on the effects of enriched
environments on brain structure as both credible
and well-established (Byrnes, 2001).
For example, Skoyles and Sagan presented
the results of research on adolescent monkeys
that suggested prefrontal cortices (considered
the executive part of the human brain) respond
better than other parts of the brain to an enriched
learning environment. After a month of exposure
to enriched environments the monkeys prefrontal
cortices had increased their activity by some 35
percent, while those of animals not exposed to an
enriched environment had slightly decreased their
activity (Skoyles & Sagan, 2002, p. 76). These
researchers go on to say that, As the most neurally
plastic species, we can choose to put ourselves

Social Learning from the Inside Out

in stimulus-rich environments that will increase


our intelligence (Skoyles & Sagan, 2002, p. 76).
Social forces clearly affect every aspect of our
lives. As Rose (2005) describes,
The ways in which we conduct our observations
and experiments on the world outside, the basis
for what we regard as proof, the theoretical frameworks within which we embed these observations,
experiments and proofs, have been shaped by the
history of our subject, by the power and limits of
available technology, and by the social forces that
have formed and continue to form that history.
(Rose, 2005, p. 9)
Physical mechanisms have developed in our
brain to enable us to learn through social interactions. Stern (2004) says that these physical
mechanisms have evolved to enable us to get
the knowledge we need to keep emotionally and
physically safe. These mechanisms would enable
us to, (1) engage in affective attunement or empathic interaction and language, (2) consider the
intentions of the other, (3) try to understand what
another mind is thinking, and (4) think about how
we want to interact (Johnson, 2006, p. 65). The
physical mechanisms for this capability come from
mirror neurons and also from adaptive oscillators.
Mirror neurons aid in stimulating other peoples
states of mind. As Stern (2004) proposes, This
participation in anothers mental life creates
a sense of feeling/sharing with/understanding
the persons intentions and feelings (p. 79). As
Blakemore and Frith describe the phenomenon
call mirror neurons,
Simply observing someone moving activates similar brain areas to those activated by producing
movements oneself. The brains motor regions
become active by the mere observation of movements even if the observer remains completely
still. (Blakemore and Frith, 2005, pp. 160-161)
Further, Dobbs explains,

10

These neurons are scattered throughout key parts


of the brainthe premotor cortex and centers for
language, empathy and painand fire not only
as we perform a certain action, but also when we
watch someone else perform that action. (Dobbs,
2007, p. 22)
Zull (2002) suggests that mirror neurons are a
form of cognitive mimicry that transfers actions,
behaviors and most likely other cultural norms.
Thus when we see something being enacted, our
mind creates the same patterns that we would use
to enact that something ourselves. While mirror neurons are a subject of current research, it
would appear that they represent a neuroscientific
mechanism for the transfer of tacit knowledge
between individuals, or throughout a culture.
Siegel suggests that mirror neurons are the way
in which our social brain processes and precedes
the intentional or goal-directed action of others.
Thus mirror neurons link our perception to the
priming of the motor systems that engage the same
action. In other words, what we see, we become
ready to do, to mirror others actions and our own
behaviors (Siegel, 2007, p. 347).
Another mechanism that aids in the synchronism of two individuals is the adaptive oscillators
that are part of our physiology. These oscillators
are created by stable feedback loops of neurons.
They may bring an individuals rate of neural
firing into sync with another individual. This is
when two people relate well to each other and
learn to anticipate each others actions (Stern,
2004). Buzsaki calls this phenomenon mutual
entrainment, meaning a measure of stability that
oscillators have when they lock in with each other
(Buzsaki, 2006).
The effects of social forces, of course, are
often not in conscious awareness. The role of the
conscious is to connect it all together. LeDoux
(1996) says that the present social situation and
physical environment are part of what is connected. Following extensive research, LeDoux
(1996) concluded that,

Social Learning from the Inside Out

People normally do all sorts of things for reasons


they are not consciously aware of (because the
behavior is produced by brain systems that operate unconsciously) and that one of the main jobs
of consciousness is to keep our life tied together
into a coherent story, a self-concept. It does this by
generating explanations of behavior on the basis
of our self-image, memories of the past, expectations of the future, the present social situation and
the physical environment in which the behavior
is produced. (LeDoux, 1996, p. 33).
Stonier agrees that when people are engaging in heavy duty thinking it is not generally in
terms of unlabelled images, sounds, smells, tastes
or tactile experiences (Stonier, 1997, p. 151).
Stonier posits that thinking is actually talking to
oneself, and that,
This ability to talk to oneself is so basic a part
of our human internal information environment
that it tends to shape all our thought processes.
It is this fact that allows us to be so influenced
by our social and cultural surroundings. (Stonier,
1997, p. 151)
Building on our earlier discussion, knowledge (understanding, meaning, insight, etc.) can
be thought of as theories, beliefs, practices and
experiences coupled with a whole neighborhood
of associated concepts, facts, and processes that
together create the understanding, meaning and
insight (to take effective action) we consider
knowledge. If the individual receiving information
from a knowledgeable person cannot recreate the
invariant forms and neighborhood, or modulate
his own invariant forms and neighborhood, then
little or no learning will occur. Knowledge will
not be shared, that is, the receiver has not recreated the senders knowledge, nor is she likely to
create her own comparable knowledge.
Further, knowledge is dependent on context. In
fact, it represents an understanding of situations
in context, insights into the relationships within a

system, and the ability to identify leverage points


and weaknesses to recognize the meaning in a
specific situation and to anticipate future implications of actions taken to resolve problems. Shared
understanding is taken to mean the movement of
knowledge from one person to the other, recognizing that what passes in the air when two people are
having a conversation is information in the form of
changes in air pressure. These patterns of change
may be understood by the perceiver (if they know
the language and its nuances), but the changes in air
pressure do not represent understanding, meaning
or the capacity to anticipate the consequences of
actions. The perceiver must be able to take these
patterns (information) andinterpreting them
through contextre-create the knowledge that
the source intended. In other words, under perfect
circumstances, the content and context (information) originating at the source resonate with the
perceiver such that the intended knowledge can
be re-created by the perceiver.
The innate ability to evoke meaning through
understandingto evaluate, judge and decideis
what distinguishes the human mind from other life
forms. This ability enables people to discriminate
and discernto see similarities and differences,
form patterns from particulars, and create and store
knowledge purposefully. In this human process to
create meaning and understanding from external
stimuli, context shapes content. Eight primary
avenues of context patterns that may directly
impact the content of a message focus on the content, setting or situation, silent attention/presence,
non-voiced communications patterns, the system,
personal context, unconscious processes and the
overarching pattern context. An explication of
these eight avenues is included below.
Context 1 focuses on the content itself: the
specific nouns and verbs selected, the adjectives
and adverbs used in the primary expression,
and the structure of the sentence that support
this expression. The semantics of the content is
crucial but still may not be sufficient for shallow

11

Social Learning from the Inside Out

knowledge sharing and will never be adequate


for sharing deep knowledge.
Context 2 is the setting or situation surrounding the content of information; that is, the words
and structure of the words, phrases and sentences
expressed before and after the primary expression that provide further explication of the intent
of content. Contexts 1 and 2 are informational
in nature and directly tied to the use and rules of
language.
Context 3 is that which is not expressed, not
available, what we call silent attention/presence.
Attention represents awareness and focus. Presence represents immediate proximity in terms of
time or space.
Context 4 includes the non-verbal, non-voiced
communications patterns that inevitably exist in
conjunction with the content, whether face-to-face
interaction, hand written exchanges, or computer
supported information. This is what could be
termed associated information signals. In the
convention used in nonverbal communication
literature, this would be encoding (expression)
from the source, and decoding (interpretation) of
the perceiver. These are, of course, interdependent.
Context 5 is focused on the system within
which interaction takes place, the mutually-shared,
common information and patterns with meaning
within the system. The context of the system would
include an understanding, either consciously or
unconsciously, of the boundaries, elements, relationships and forces within the system.
Context 6 is the personal context which includes beliefs, values, experiences and feelings
that emerge into conscious awareness. Personal
context would also include positions that individuals take that are locked into the conscious
mind, unconscious patterns that are made conscious by the emerging content of the message
(what might be termed implicit knowledge), and
the core values and beliefs that rise to awareness
by virtue of feelings. Contexts 6 and 7 work
together, with context 6 being those aspects that
surface in an individuals thoughts and feelings

12

and context 7 being those processes occurring of


which an individual is unaware, i.e., occurring in
the unconscious.
Context 7 is the impact of unconscious processes. These can be thought of in terms of (1) the
unconscious response to external stimuli (environment); (2) experiences and feelings (memories)
not in conscious awareness; and (3) empathetic
processes that can mirror behavior. As you will
recall from our previous discussion, the selection,
interpretation and meaning of incoming patterns
are very much a function of pre-existing patterns
in the brain (Bennet and Bennet, 2006).
Context 8 is the overarching pattern context, higher levels of patterns of significance
that emerge in the mind. These include: (1) the
unconsciousand sometimes consciousconnecting of contexts 1 through 7 to develop a
pattern of understanding or behavior; and (2) the
development and recognition of patterns of patterns among different interactions (over time).
The connecting of multiple contexts would include
comparing, manipulating and combining patterns.
As noted above, the development and recognition
of higher-level patterns among multiple and different interactions occurs over time. While this
generally forms in the conscious mind as a feeling or sense of knowing (intuition), it may also
be accompanied by a mental remembering of an
emotional response from previous interactions.
These contexts are present and influential to
various degrees depending on the specific social
situation. Their influence on knowledge sharing
may be through the participants unconscious, but
they are there. The higher the number of related
(relevant) patterns (the greater the context), the
greater the resonance between the source and
receiver and the increased sharing of understanding. See Bennet and Bennet (2007b, 2008a) for an
in-depth treatment on context. Cozolino (2002)
says that along with language, significant social
relationships stimulate learning and knowledge
creation and shape the brain. He offers that the

Social Learning from the Inside Out

two powerful processes of social interaction and


affective attunement, when involving a trusted
other, contribute to both the evolution and
sculpting of the brain ... [since they] stimulate the
brain to grow, organize and integrate (Cozolino,
2002, p. 213).
Following a study of unconscious communications which supported the fact that people are in
constant interaction with those around them (often
unconsciously), Cozolino and Sprokay say that
one possible implication of this finding of specific
interest is the fact that the attention of a caring,
aware mentor may support the plasticity that leads
to better, more meaningful learning (Cozolino
and Sprokay, 2006, p. 13). Plasticity refers to
the fact that new ideas change the patterns in the
mind which changes the physiology of the brain.
Also, changes in the physical brain can change
the patterns of neurons and thereby thoughts of
the mind. As we live, learn and change through
experience, our mind/brain also changes both
physically and pattern-wise. Thus the mind/brain
is said to have a great deal of plasticity. Similarly, referring to recent discoveries in cognitive
neuroscience and social cognitive neuroscience,
Johnson (2006) says that educators and mentors
of adults recognize the neurological effects and
importance of creating a trusting relationship,
a holding environment, and an intersubjective
space (p. 68) where such things as reflection and
abstract thinking can occur.
Social bonding reduces individual fears, creates
trust, and makes the mind/brain much more open
to incoming information and creates a desire to
understand (and thereby re-create) the knowledge
of the sender. In Sousa (2006) social bonding
carries with it a positive, trusting relationship
that allows the learner to take risks and not be
concerned with mistakes made during learning.
It also encourages an open mind and willingness
to listen and learn from a trusted other.
Fear has been identified as an impediment to
learning and knowledge sharing throughout the
field of adult learning (Brookfield, 1987; Daloz,

1986, 1999; Mezirow and Associates, 1991; Perry,


1970/1988). The limbic system, the primitive part
of the human brain, and in particular its amygdala,
is the origin of survival and fear responses.
The literature is extensive on the need for a
safe and empathic relationship to facilitate learning and knowledge sharing. Cozolino says that for
complex levels of self-awareness, that is those
that involve higher brain functions and potential
changes in neural networks, learning cannot be accomplished when an individual feels anxious and
defensive (Cozolino, 2002). Specifically, he says
that a safe and empathic relationship can establish
an emotional and neurobiological context that is
conducive to neural reorganization. It serves as
a buffer and scaffolding within which [an adult]
can better tolerate the stress required for neural
reorganization (Cozolino, 2002, p. 291). Taylor
explains that,
Adults who would create (or recreate) neural
networks associated with development of a more
complex epistemology need emotional support for
the discomfort that will also certainly be part of
that process. (Taylor, 2006, p. 82).
From a neuroscience perspective, trust in a
relationship enhances the sharing of knowledge,
especially regarding shallow and deep knowledge.
When a secure, bonding relationship in which trust
has been established occurs, the learners neurotransmitters in the prefrontal cortex (dopamine,
serotonin, and norepinephrine) are stimulated
and lead to increased neuronal networking and
meaningful learning (Cozolino, 2002). Schore
describes this as a cascade of biochemical processes, stimulating and enhancing the growth and
connectivity of neural networks throughout the
brain (Schore, 1994, as cited in Cozolino, 2002,
p. 191). Thus a caring, affirming relationship
promotes neural growth and knowledge creation.
Such physiological changes can quickly influence
the attitude and expectations of people involved
in social knowledge sharing and learning.

13

Social Learning from the Inside Out

Without such trust and bonding, a listener tends


to defend his or her own pre-established beliefs,
theories, frames of reference, and self-image.
Under normal situations, we tend to defend our
beliefs and how we see the world. This defense may
accept some incoming information, reject other,
and change some. When these distortions occur,
the incoming information can no longer represent
the knowledge of the sender and therefore it is
not shared. New knowledge that challenges or
contradicts what we already know also tends to
threaten our concept of Self, and thereby creates
defensive reactions that minimize or negate learning. Our mind concentrates on defending itself
and does not have time for listening or taking the
other persons view and understanding.
On the other hand, if a trusting, nurturing
relationship exists between two people, a safe
environment can be created that eliminates or
minimizes potential threats to the learner. Daloz
(1986) refers to such a situation as a holding environment (in Johnson, 2006, p. 64). When such
a relationship is created, the receiver can build
a new sense of Self while building the senders
knowledge out of the information that moves
from the sender to the receiver. Such knowledge
may not be identical to the senders knowledge
because the mind/ brain of each participant is
different. However, when the knowledge sharing
is successful, the knowledge in each person may
be equally capable of taking effective action even
though their understanding, meaning and insight
may differ n some ways.
Andreasen cites mentoring as one of the elements that helps create a cultural environment to
nurture creativity. From a broader perspective,
the five circumstances that create what she calls
a cradle of creativity include an atmosphere of
intellectual freedom and excitement; a critical
mass of creative minds; free and fair competition,
mentors, and patrons, and at least some economic
prosperity. As she concludes, If we seek to find
social and cultural environmental factors that
help to create the creative brain, these must be

14

considered to be important ones (Andreasen,


2005, p. 131).
Cozolino (2002) says that the efficacy of the
mentoring relationshipa balance of support
and challengeis supported by the literature on
brain function. We appear to experience optimal
development and integration in a context of a
balance of nurturance and optimal stress (p. 62).
Considering stress, Akil et al. state,
The stress system is an active monitoring system
that constantly compares current events to past
experience, interprets the relevance (salience) of
the events to the survival of the organisms ability
to cope. (Akil et al., 1999, p. 1146)
If the emotional content of incoming information from a conversation is one of strong fear or
uncertainty to the individual, stress is created and
can significantly limit any learning involved. However, if there is too little arousal/stress involved
then there may be no desire for listening. Thus,
for each individual there exists at any given time
some optimal level of arousal/stress (Zull, 2002).
Note that low levels of stress are often referred
to as arousal.
Plotting knowledge creation rate on the
vertical axis and arousal/stress level along the
horizontal axis, we get an inverted U. See Figure
2. The optimum arousal level shown just to the
left of the center of the inverted U challenges
the listener but does not make them fearful of
failure or embarrassment (Akil et al., 1999). This
optimal level learning and knowledge creation is
context sensitive and content dependent and is
also influenced by the individuals history. The
learners personal beliefs and feelings about the
content of the materials can also play a role in
determining his or her stress level. To optimize
learning in a given situation, individuals need to
understand their own arousal/stress level that challenges them to create knowledge from what they
hear, but does not reduce this capacity because of
fear. It is possible for individuals to control their

Social Learning from the Inside Out

Figure 2. Representation of the relationship


between knowledge creation and arousal/stress

and caregiver enter into an intersubjective space.


This space may be created around the infant and
caregiver through the process of emotional resonance or affective attunement (Johnson, 2006).

COLLABORATIVE ENTANGLEMENT
(LEARNING TO CREATE
KNOWLEDGE AS COMMUNITIES)

perception of stress by recognizing its existence


and understanding that stress is created inside the
body and can therefore be understood and managed (Begley, 2007).
The notion of affective attunement is connected to Deweys observations that an educator
needs to have that sympathetic understanding of
individuals as individuals which gives him an
idea of what is actually going on in the minds of
those who are learning (Dewey, [1938] 1997, p.
39). As Johnson (2006) explains, According to
social cognitive neuroscience, the brain actually
needs to seek out an affectively attuned other if
it is to learn. Affective attunement alleviates fear,
(p. 65) a significant impediment to learning. These
mechanisms support learning situations by enhancing understanding, meaning, truth and how
things work, and anticipating the results of actions.
One example of affective attunement that
stimulates the orbitofrontal cortex is eye contact
because specific cells are particularly responsive
to facial expression and eye gaze (Schore, 1994,
p. 67). As Johnson explains, literally looking
into the eyes of the affectively attuned other is
another significant form of social interaction that
can assist in promoting development (Johnson,
2006, p. 67). This reflects the earlier discussion on
the importance and natures of context. Similarly,
Frith and Wolpert (2003) forward that an infant

Biological systems are remarkably smarter in their


support of the body than we are in sustaining our
work places and communities. Fortunately, we can
and are learning from ourselves in this sense, and
whether we reflect on this learning in the form
of a reality or as an analogy is insignificant as
long as we keep learning and creating knowledge
(Bennet and Bennet, 2008).
In a social setting new thoughts and behaviors
proposed through research or personal reflection
(based on earlier learning) emerge and then build
on others thoughts and behaviors and then become mixed with yet another set of thoughts and
behaviors from the community, and so on. We call
this mixing, entwining and creation of unpredictable associations the process of entanglement. In
other words, the knowledge creation process in
a group or community works very much as does
the human mind/brain.
In communities, collaborative entanglement
consistently develops and supports approaches
and processes that combine the sources of knowledge and the beneficiaries of that knowledge to
interactively move toward a common direction
such as meeting an identified community need.
In addition to decision-making, collaborative
entanglement includes the execution and actions
that build value for all stakeholders, engaging
social responsibility and providing a platform
for knowledge mobilization. The collaborative
entanglement model is highly participative,
with permeable and porous boundaries (being
continuously reshaped) between the knowledge
creatoran individual, team, or communityand

15

Social Learning from the Inside Out

knowledge beneficiary. An example is a university


research program in the social sciences involving
action learning (of a team, group or community),
where the research itself becomes part of the
process of implementing research results (Bennet
and Bennet, 2007). Lee and Garvin contend that
to be effective, knowledge exchange depends on
multi-directional, participatory communication
among all participants (Lee and Garvin, 2003).
The collaborative entanglement model moves
beyond knowledge exchange to the creation of
shared understanding resulting in collaborative
advantage and value creation (Bennet and Bennet, 2007b, 2008a).
Collaborative entanglement as a social phenomenon can be analogous to the natural activities of the brain, with the brain representing the
researcher (in our example) and the stakeholder
community representing the knowledge beneficiary. All the living and learning of the host human
is recorded in the brain, stored among some hundred billion neurons that are continuously moving
between firing and idling, creating and re-creating
patterns. Information is coming into the individual
through the senses which, assuming for the sake
of our analogy, resonates with internal patterns
that have strong synaptic connections. When
resonance occurs, the incoming information is
consistent with the individuals frame of reference
and belief systems. As this incoming information
is complexed (the associative patterning process) it
may connect with (and to some degree may bring
into conscious awareness) deep knowledge. The
unconscious continues this process (24/7), with
new knowledge stored in the unconscious and
perhaps emerging at the conscious level.
In the collaborative entanglement model, individuals and groups are continuously interacting
as new information becomes available through
their sensors; for example, if (1) they recognize
a problem or issue and/or solution, (2) they see
new indicators that bode well or poorly for the
community, or (3) new events occur that affect
an on-going project or community effort. From

16

these interactionsoften connected to strong


emotional feelings which increase the importance
and strength of their meaningnew knowledge
emerges. When individuals or groups are engaged
in this interactive, emergent process with other
stakeholders, the new knowledge that emerges
is informed by their learned expertise. As new
knowledge is applied and this iterative loop of
collective learning continues, a large amount of
tacit knowledge (embodied, affective and intuitive) is created beyond that which visibly affects
the community (Bennet and Bennet, 2008a). This
new tacit knowledge then forms the grounding
(best thinking) for future incoming information
that will be associated with these patterns. In other
words, the process of collaborative entanglement
among individuals not only helps provide a specific
solution to a current issue, but seeds the ground
for continuous community self improvement,
collaboration, and sustainability.

AN EXTRAPOLATION
With the new century emerged new ideas on every
front, one of which was expansion of the global
brain concept. The term originally emerged in
print in 1983 with the publication of Peter Russells book by that name. Grounding his work on
historic observations of new levels of organization
occurring based on the tight-but-flexible coupling
of 10 billion units in a system, Russell described
an interconnected network of humans as becoming
a Global Brain (Russell, 1982). In 1995 Gottfried
Mayer-Kress and Cathleen Barczys proposed
that a globally and tightly connected network of
computer workstations such as the Internet can
lead to the emergence of a globally self-organized
structure that could be called the Global Brain
(Mayer-Kress and Barczys, 1995, p.1). In 2000
Howard Blooms treatment described the network
of life on Earth as a complex adaptive system.
He shows how animals and plants have evolved
together as components of a worldwide learning

Social Learning from the Inside Out

machine, with humans playing conscious and


unconscious roles, with development of the World
Wide Web as part of this learning. And so forth.
We choose to explore the concept of Global
Brain from the viewpoint of the mind/brainperhaps moving towards the higher level of evolution introduced by Pierre Teilhard de Chardins
noosphere, a network of thoughts ushering in a
new level of consciousness. Recognizing that the
mind/brain supports survival and sustainability
in a complex and unpredictable world, we now
consider, somewhat metaphorically, the potential
of learning from the totality of ourselves to further
explore the emergence of social knowledge, that
is, extrapolating our model of the individual mind/
brain to a societal level. Perhaps the simplest way
to achieve this extrapolation is through story form.
As SETH streamed into unknown territory, he
was further excited by the feelings of familiarity
and resonance emerging within. SETH represented
Self-Evolved Thinking Humans, a pattern of men
and women crossing cultural, ethnic, religious
and gender boundaries in pursuit of ultimate
knowledge. SETHs capacity to anticipate was
high, honed by the association of a wide range of
experiences and a highly tuned emotional guidance system. Still, with all her historic success
in anticipating and dealing with the future in her
area of expertise, this landscape was different
was that a tinge of fear in her side tagging along
for the ride?
SETH was responding to a strong message
received from this distant realm, a message associated with survival, no doubt one of those
learnings worthy of a new category of The Nobel
Prize, a grand new way of thinking and being. He
now stood on the high ground above that distant
realm, a hundred thousand homes stretched out
as far as he could see, lights twinkling through
the windows and pulsing along the billion connecting three-dimensional highways, roads and
paths that made the community One. Some spots
were brighter than others: flitting patterns from

a movie theatre playing reruns; flashing sparks


from a loudly-buzzing generator; colorful streams
from an observatory at the far edge of the city
sporting a large, upward-focused telescope. And
near the center of this hub of activity, to the left,
where connecting paths intertwined with incessant beams of entangled reds and blues and yellows, the brightest light moved in and out of the
central library. SETH understood the power of
record-keeping at its best, a living, vibrant field
of growing and expanding patterns evolving from
instant to instant.
SETH moved toward that light, carefully navigating the busyness of the intersections, pulled this
way and that by the excitement, but committed to
staying the course. He had come to learn from
the Master, to discover that single thought that
guided all the others. He paused to reflect on this
singular yearning for the discovery of something
more that had emerged since his first feeling of
the message.
Then he arrived at his destination, startled by
the peace within the hub of excitement, but gently
perceiving the silence and fullness that comes with
knowing. What might be described as an inner
council of sorts welcomed him, each member of
the council a different aspect of the One. Eager
to discover answers to his questions, he moved
quickly through the formalities of introductions,
conveying greetings from mutual distant relatives,
sharing the urgency of his mission, and expressing
gratitude for a warm reception.
The environment is rapidly changing, the
leader began, and though you journeyed quickly
following the first flash, much new information is
coming in from our sensors and emerging from
our internal sources that is shifting our direction.
Let us see how you fit, what you contribute
And whatwecan learn from you, SETH
interrupted.
Yes, the leader confirmed, that is also a
possibility.
Possibility? SETH questioned. But this
sounded like the answer we have been seeking;

17

Social Learning from the Inside Out

finally, absolute knowledge. It resonates with our


beliefs, with our preferred frames of reference,
with our values
Ah, responded the leader, but beliefs and
frames of reference and values also change. They
are tools for us to act effectively in an uncertain
and changing environment.
SETH was puzzled, confused even. No. Our
community is also one hundred thousand strong,
although many of those connections are outliers,
at a distance, only a few reside in the center of
town. Still, we have held onto those early values
embedded during the beginning of time, and have
picked up incoming information throughout our
history that has reinforced those values, and
we have sent continuous messages beyond our
boundaries to guide those who are on misdirected
paths
So that was you, the leader sighed. Those
historic values were holding all of us back for
awhile. There was a short pause, accented by
rhythms of soft bursts of light. The leader continued, And yet you are here. You were able
to sense something new and different with the
potential of evolving our connections and firings
to another level.
Yes it was magical, responded SETH.
There was an explosion right in the center of
townat our Central Librarythat coincided with
the explosion here, visible and felt even across
such great distances. So strong that it pulled me
here. Where did it come from? What exactly is
it? Give me the words, the pattern, the context,
to understand and learn and connect and share.
The leader smiled and silently moved away
from SETH even as another form approached
and continued the interaction. YOU are part of
the answer to your questions! It is at the core of
who you are, and now you are more, for you are
more strongly connected to us, and, in turn, to all
those with whom we interact. We welcome your
contribution.

18

SETH was beginning to tire of these circular


responses. But Im here to discover the grand
new way of doing and being, the answer!
A third form was now moving toward SETH,
hand out-stretched, eyes sparkling with amusement. There is no such thing; and simultaneously
all you know is part of such a thing!
We are part of such a thing that does not
exist!? SETH blurted out.
The third informer gently motioned to the
shelves and shelves of books and movies surrounding them in a hazy glow. We store here only a
small amount of what we observe, what we reflect,
what we discover, and it is always reforming and
reconnecting in new ways to create the wonderful
flash which brought you here. She gestured a full
circle, gliding around with the gesture. Perhaps
you had forgotten? This is the process of birth and
regeneration, the way of knowledge, the capacity
to take effective action, a human gift to navigate
the rapids of change, uncertainty and complexity.
I dont understand, SETH sorrowed. How
can I anticipate those rapids?
You started that journey already came the
slow response. You are here with us, interacting,
each of us learning from the other. Our thoughts
are no longer distant to you. The third informer
paused, pulsing with soft light that reached toward SETH.
My friend, our future is neither predetermined nor knowable. It rests with the dynamics,
uncertainty and complexity of an almost infinite
number of quasi-independent biological thinking
subsystems that are continuously and deeply interconnected, with each trying to comprehend the
whole but acting to the benefit of the individual.
There is no answer or ultimate action, there is
learning, thinking and recognizing (and acting)
the role of each biological subsystem which, in
turn, affects the learning, thinking and acting of
the whole in completely unpredictable ways. Patterns in a never-ending journey in which SETH
was fully participating.As SETH turned her energy
towards home, she reflected on re-connecting

Social Learning from the Inside Out

with her trusted network, sharing new patterns,


expanding their thoughts through exchange and
dialogue, and re-creating themselves (continuously) to co-evolve with a changing universe

FINAL THOUGHTS
Experiential learning is not just a function of the
incoming information. It becomes clear that the
nature of the social interaction plays an important role in determining knowledge creation and
sharing. The overall environment, a trusted other,
and the conscious and unconscious state of the
learner all have a role in the final efficiency and
effectiveness of learning that occurs. Further,
the specific social interaction that influences the
neural structure, and the perceived stress level of
the individual, will affect the nature and amount
of knowledge that is created and shared. By being
aware of these factors, learners may be able to
change the local physical environment, improve
communication with others, or perhaps position
and adjust their own internal feelings and perspectives to maximize learning.
Here are a few summary highlights of this
paper in terms of recent neuroscience findings:
There is an optimum level of stress for learning (the inverted U). This level is somewhere
between a positive attitude and a strong motivation to learn (arousal), and some level of fear of
learning or the learning situation.
Physical mechanisms have developed in
our brain to enable us to learn through social
interactions. These mechanisms support affective
attunement, help us consider the intentions of others and what others are thinking, and help us think
about how we want to interact (Johnson, 2006).
The brain actually needs to seek out an affectively attuned other for learning. As Johnson
explains, effective attunement reduces fear, and
creates a positive environment and motivation to
learn (Johnson, 2006).

Physical and mental exercise and social


bonding are significant sources of stimulation
of the brain. Studies in social neuroscience have
affirmed that over the course of evolution physical mechanisms have developed in our brains to
enable us to learn through social interactions
(Amen, 2005).
Language and social relationships build
and shape the brain. This significantly impacts
the sensing aspect of concrete experience and the
concepts, ideas, and logic of abstract conceptualization. Good social relationships enhance learning
through a reduction of stress, a shared language,
and the use and understanding of concepts, metaphors, anecdotes, and stories.
Adults developing complex neural patterns
need emotional support to offset discomfort
of this process. Taylor (2006) suggests that this
support is needed by individuals developing
complex knowledge. Such emotional support
will enhance the feelings of an individual during
concrete experience, and also aid in the creation
and understanding of concepts and ideas during
abstract conceptualization.
Effective attunement contributes to the
evolution and sculpting of the brain. Effective
attunement involves a mentor, coach, or another
significant individual who is trusted and capable
of resonance with the learner. When this happens,
a dialogue with such an individual can greatly help
the learner in understanding, developing meaning,
anticipating the future with respect to actions, and
receiving sensory feedback. As these new patterns
are created in the mind, they in turn impact and
change the structure of the brain.
An enriched environment increases the
formation and survival of new neurons. Such
an enriched environment can influence both the
nature of the experience of the learner and his or
her learning efficacy. As Begley (2007) describes,
exposure to an enriched environment leads to a
striking increase in new neurons, along with a
substantial improvement in behavioral performance (p. 58).

19

Social Learning from the Inside Out

Collaborative entanglement represents the


continuous interaction, movement of information,
and sharing and learning of knowledge resulting
in a community movement toward a higher level
of awareness, understanding and meaning. Such
a process builds both explicit and implicit knowledge and creates a learning, trust and bonding that
may energize and accelerate community progress.
While we have addressed information, knowledge, learning and the factors and conditions
which influence the social creation and/or sharing
of knowledge, it must not be forgotten that every
individual learns (creates their own knowledge)
from a baseline of past experiences, theories, biases, motivations and perceptions of their Self.1 It
is concepts and their associated internal patterns
that can be mixed with incoming information.
Thus we can only create new knowledge from
our personal autobiography, and the information
coming to us in the future will be complexed
with what we are learning today. Then again,
our personal autobiography is rich with social
interactions, social bonding experiences, and
reflectiona richness to which we contribute
every day of our lives.

Andreasen, N. C. (2005). The creating brain:


The neuroscience of genius. New York: The Dana
Foundation.

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Change, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Anxiety.

ENDNOTE

See Bennet and Bennet (2009) for a discussion of Self in a CUCA environment, that is,
increasing Change, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Anxiety.

23

24

Chapter 2

Measuring the Impact


of Social Media:
Connection, Communication
and Collaboration
Kimiz Dalkir
McGill University, Canada

ABSTRACT
This chapter focuses on a method, social network analysis (SNA) that can be used to assess the quantity
and quality of connection, communication and collaboration mediated by social tools in an organization.
An organization, in the Canadian public sector, is used as a real-life case study to illustrate how SNA can
be used in a pre-test/post-test evaluation design to conduct a comparative assessment of methods that
can be used before, during and after the implementation of organizational change in work processes.
The same evaluation method can be used to assess the impact of introducing new social media such
as wikis, expertise locator systems, blogs, Twitter and so on. In other words, while traditional pre-test/
post-test designs can be easily applied to social media, the social media tools themselves can be added
to the assessment toolkit. Social network analysis in particular is a good candidate to analyze the connections between people and content as well as people with other people.

SOCIAL MEDIA IN ORGANIZATIONS


Knowledge management researchers have been
unified in voicing the notion that the sharing of
information and knowledge is critical in all organizations (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995, Ruggles,
1998, Davenport and Prusak, 1998). Robert
Buckman, of Buckman Labs, an early pioneer in
successfully managing knowledge states that it is
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-203-1.ch002

the flow of information that gives rise to valuable


knowledge:
This is not the story of me, but a story about our
associates and what they did. We wanted to become more customer-driven as an organisation.
That meant having our people effectively engaged
with them and taking responsibility for satisfying
their needs and expectations. To accomplish this,
we needed to speed up the processes of sharing
knowledge so we could serve our customers better.

Copyright 2011, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.

Measuring the Impact of Social Media

Our people needed answers from whoever had


them, anywhere in the world. We were a multinational company that needed to become a global
organisation. The whole thing was a journey, and
it has invaded the fabric of our corporation. It
didnt start out as knowledge management we
tried to do what we thought was best at the time
to improve the speed at which we could respond
to the needs of our customers. Then, something
new comes along that seems better - other things
fall by the wayside. Weve really created a culture
...Think about metrics around the flow of information and knowledge rather than financial metrics.
Knowledge will create value if it moves across
the organisation1.
Jarvenpaa and Staples define collaborative
technology as:
computer-based system used to accomplish
information activities such as accessing, searching, sharing, storing and publishing information
in a computer network within a persons work
unit/department/organization (i.e. internal information activities) as well as external to the
persons organization (i.e. external activities)
such systems encourage sharing of ideas in a freeflowing manner as well as in a form of structured
repositories to exchange both information and
knowledge (p. 130.)
Social media, then, are examples of collaborative technologies. Older or more traditional forms
included listserves, intranets and email while the
newer ones consist of social networking sites,
Twitter and wikis.
It is important to distinguish between the most
commonly used social media in general (such as
blogging, twitter) and those implemented in organizations (such as wikis). The organizational lens
should be used to discern social activities from
more professional ones (for example, Facebook
and its professional counterpart LinkedIn). Many
organizations view social media as something

they should be familiar with and that they should


experiment with. However, once introduced, they
tend to remain and along with their introduction, a
number of expectations are created. A number of
organizations justify this experimentation through
one of the following reasons:
1. We need to attract the new generation to
come and work at our company
2. We need to keep up with new technologies
3. We must need it!?
The next question tends to be: What is it
exactly? There is a pressing need to demystify
new social media and this needs to be done on at
least two major axes: the technological axis (what
are the tools, how do they work, what are they
used for) and the human axis (the engine or the
intelligence lies not in the tools but in the people
who use them to network together). The latter notion, often referred to as collective intelligence
(Brown and Lauder, 2000) to distinguish it from
individual intelligence, also need to be clearly
defined and distinguished from similar concepts
such as synergy and team work.
In the early to mid-nineties, a number of researchers proposed a new perspective on understanding firms as social organizations (Kogut &
Zander, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996; Zander & Kogut,
1995) and several other authors (Boisot, 1995;
Conner & Prahalad, 1996; Loasby, 1991; Nonaka
& Takeuchi, 1995; Spender, 1996) rather than
an institution that could be understand solely in
terms of market conditions, costs and transactions.
Kogut and Zander (1996) proposed that a firm be
understood as a social community specializing in
the speed and efficiency in the creation and transfer
of knowledge (p.503). This perspective on the
theory of the firm situates social media firmly at
the centre of the knowledge flows that give rise
to all three forms of intellectual capital, or value,
forming the organizations knowledge assets.
The three types of intellectual capital are: human
capital, organizational capital and social capital.

25

Measuring the Impact of Social Media

The notion of social capital has been used as a


counterpoint to human and organizational capital,
referred to as the Skandia model of intellectual
capital (Edvinsson, 1997). Human capital is the
knowledge, experience and skill set of employees
while organizational capital refers to assets that are
owned by the company such as physical inventory but also intangibles such as reputation and
customer loyalty. Social capital then is the value
created by the social relationships formed by the
employees the worth of the network whether
it be to innovate, to solve problems faster or to
lessen the turnover rate (Nahapiet and Ghoshal,
1998). The authors further refine their definition
of social capital as the sum of the actual and
potential resources embedded within, available
through, and derived from the network of relationships possessed by an individual or social units
(p. 243). Social capital includes both the social
networks in an organization as noted by Bourdieu
(1986) and the assets that may be mobilized
through that network, as Burt (1992) observes.
Coleman (1988) showed that social relationships
within the organization and wider community are
an important factor in the development of human
capital. Nahapiet and Ghoshal added evidence
that social relationships (i.e. social capital) have
an important influence on the development of
intellectual capital.
Finally, as Maddock and Viton (2009) state:
But not only do you need to add social media
but also commit to using them. Just experimenting
with the idea is unlikely to produce any significant
impact. Organizations need to be clear on what
objective(s) social media are targeting and just
like any other innovation or initiative, they need to
be able to track progress and assess how well the
objective was met. As social media shift the paradigm from a broadcast mode to a many-to-many
connection, we will need new metrics to measure
not only whether or not the correct links were made
(connection), whether or not the correct message
was received (communication) but whether or not
the online relationships formed in an organization

26

lead to greater efficiency and effectiveness in


achieving successful outcomes (collaboration)2.
Collaboration as an organizational goal needs to
be defined again, at a finer level of granularity. For
example, in the case study organization, the goal
was to increase collaboration in conjunction with
organizational change to create new information
and knowledge sharing pathways. One of the best
ways to evaluate whether or not this has occurred
is to conduct a pre, during and post change social
network analysis to identify and analyze changes
in patterns of interaction (Anklam, 2002).

A CONCEPTUAL OR THEORETICAL
FRAMEWORK FOR SOCIAL MEDIA
Constant et al (1994) formulated an information sharing theory that describes the factors
that support or constrain information sharing in
technologically advanced organizations. The researchers found that both self-interest as well as
the organizational culture influenced information
sharing. The more the person believes that information sharing is the correct, socially expected
behavior, the more they are willing to share. The
more user-friendly the computer systems, the
more wiling users are to use them to share. And,
the more a persons work is dependent on the
work of others, than the more likely the person
is to share in order to increase reciprocity and in
the needs of self-interest.
Jarvenpaa and Staples (2000) found that task
characteristics, perceived information usefulness
and the users level of comfort with computers
were strongly associated with their use of social or
collaborative media. The authors also found that
the propensity to share was linked with a more
structured information culture. This implies that
the more structured the information flow process,
the more people will share information, likely
due to a need to have reliable access to credible
information and knowledge possessed by other
individuals. A fully organic or open culture may

Measuring the Impact of Social Media

in fact be counterproductive to knowledge sharing


for professional tasks.
Cross et al (2004) found that
found SNA uniquely effective in:

promoting effective collaboration within a


strategically important group;
supporting critical junctures in networks
that cross functional, hierarchical, or geographic boundaries; and
ensuring integration within groups following strategic restructuring initiatives (p.
28)

A useful framework is to categorize the major


types of social media with respect to the type of
interactions they allow. Social media form one
type of organizational tools that facilitate information exchange, knowledge sharing, connections,
communications and collaboration between organizational members. Table1 illustrates the major
categories together with examples of each type
of organizational medium.
The one-to-one communication mode that is
generally preferred is face-to-face. When such
point-to-point communication is technologically
mediated, then participants would ideally want
the maximum amount of media richness and
Table 1. Major categories of organizational media
One
One
to:

Many
to:

Many

Email
Telephone
Fax
IM, chat

Email with ccs


Listserve
YouTube video
Blog
Web page posting

Email responses
Survey tools
(e.g. SurveyMonkey)
Online polls
Document markups

Wikis
Collaborative
authoring tools
Facebook
LinkedIn
Flickr
Google Docs
Community of
practice

social presence (Dalkir, 2007) which serve to


provide a wide bandwidth (e.g. multimedia) and
give the impression that one is speaking to another individual (e.g. can hear or see cues, sense
if the person is bored, interested etc.). The oneto-many category is the broadcast mode which is
typified by posting messages or emails for all to
see and respond to. There are also tools to facilitate the gathering of responses from many individuals that can then be received, aggregated or
otherwise analyzed by one individual (such as
online polls, surveys, or sending out a document
for comments from multiple individuals). Finally,
social media comprise the fourth category of
many-to-many communications.

MEASURING THE IMPACT


OF SOCIAL MEDIA
A useful approach to measuring the impact of
social media, in ROI terms, is that of action research. Traditional research approaches advocate
adopting the stance of a non-biased, non-observed
researcher studying subjects within a controlled
environment. Given the innate complexity of both
organizations and the knowledge workers who
are working within them, the traditional stance
appears too limited to study the impact of new
connection, communication and collaboration
media. The notion of:
an objective observer, a sense-making observer
and a critical observer, may at times be a valid
perspective in its own right, each misses an essential point, namely that communication and
mediated communication inherently involves an
interactive process.
As a result, the observer stance leads to a disjunction between theory and action. A disjunction
between theory and action renders each tradition
more intent on theory building and less open to

27

Measuring the Impact of Social Media

seeing the ultimate poverty of its approach. Theories built are theories defended (p. 4).
Hearn and Foth (2004) argue that action research deserves a firm place within the family of
methodologies relevant to media and communication research, though it has rarely been deployed
in these fields. The authors note that:
The imperative of an action research project is not
only to understand the problem, but also to provoke change researchers immerse themselves
with the subjects under investigation in order to
connect with them and encourage them to directly
participate in the project as co-investigators (p. 2).
The distinction between tacit and codified
knowledge is important in action research. Most
research methods address codified or tangible
knowledge only. Action research includes both
codified and tacit knowledge. Most practitioners
in fact adopt action research methods unknowingly
as they tend to focus on participative development,
qualitative analysis (e.g. individual interviews
or focus group sessions), adaptive procedures,
reflective practice, and informed action. The action research process is well suited to evaluate
some aspect of a new technology or a new business practice (termed communicative ecologies
by Tacchi et al., 2003. Participants are often key
stakeholders and they are actively involved in the
project, the organizational change, and how all this
fits into their organizational lives and routines. The
larger social and organizational context needs to
be taken into account when evaluating the impact
of social media. This larger context includes the
organizational culture (or unit micro-cultures),
language issues, status and power, resource issues,
infrastructure, policies and so forth.
Hearn and Foth (2004) note that action research means that the research process is tightly
connected to the technology design or evaluation
in three main ways:

28

1. Active participation: the people who should


benefit from the research participate in defining the aims and direction of the research
and in interpreting and drawing conclusions
from it.
2. Action-based methods: the activities and
experiences of participants generate knowledge alongside, or in combination with, more
formal methods.
3. Generating action: research is directly
aimed at generating things like medium and
long-term plans, including business plans;
ideas for new initiatives; solving problems;
targeting sectors of the user constituency;
finding new resources or partners. Action
generating research can be a combination of
general, wide-ranging, background research
and very specific focused research (pp. 7-8).
Cummings et al (2002) found
Using the Internet to build social relationships
results in social interaction that is wanting, at least
when it is explicitly compared to the standards
of face-to-face and telephone communication, to
social relationships that are primarily conducted
offline, and to traditional small groups. We do not
assert that online social interaction has little value.
Surveys of the general public continually reveal
that most people using the Internet value email and
other forms of online social interaction. Even in
the age of the Web and e-commerce, online social
interaction is still the most important use of the
Internet [5]. However, in one-to-one comparisons,
an email message is not as useful as a phone call
or a face-to-face meeting for developing and sustaining social relationships. Listservs are not as
valuable as small groups for establishing a sense
of identity and belonging and for gaining social
support. Relationships sustained primarily over
the Internet are not as close as those sustained
by other means (p. 108).

Measuring the Impact of Social Media

Ahuja (2000) found that the type of social


network, such as whether it is densely cohesive
or has structural holes, differed in its impact depending on the organizational context: he states
that the basic conclusion that the impact of different network attributes and positions can only
be understood relative to a particular context
(pp. 450-451). This means that in the application
of social networks to organizations, whether as
social media to facilitate knowledge sharing and/
or to assess the impact of organizational changes
on the flow of knowledge, the old adage of one
size does not fit all applies.
The context in which social media can be
assessed is therefore comprised of three major
components:
1. Connections knowing who to contact in
order to carry out a professional task;
2. Communications knowing what major
channels can be used to send and receive
messages from people and sources from
which information and knowledge can be
retrieved in addition to selecting one or more
of these channels;
3. Collaboration establish mutual credibility,
trust and accountability, on a mutual task or
project.
The following describes the application of
social network analysis to assess the impact of
an organizational change intended to improve the
efficiency (speed) and effectiveness (connecting
the right people to the right content and to other
people).

CASE STUDY OF A
GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATION
The introduction of social media tools has been
slow in the Canadian public sector. In fact, some
older generation technologies, such as instant
messaging, are banned outright (security reasons

are cited). The consultation of Facebook and other


social networking sites are also frowned upon. This
situation is largely due to a lack of understanding
of the different social media and their potential
role in organizations. The first half of the term
social media namely, social leads to a
misunderstanding that lumps all such technologies
into the not for serious work category. Although
numerous case studies exist, including the CIAs
use of Facebook (Bruce, 2007), the large majority of government departments remain staunchly
unconvinced. The lack of penetration of social
media into the public sector not only results in a
great loss of potential productivity but also further
alienates younger generations from joining this
particular workforce.
There have, however, been some small forays
into social media that have served to propagate
good success stories. The more successful implementations are achieved, documented and publicized, the more the public sector will progress
towards a cultural change that will eventually
encompass a more rapid adoption of new networking tools. One such case study occurred in
a large government department that had come
under close scrutiny due to some negative press.
All Canadian federal government departments
must comply with the Access to Information Act3,
which gives Canadian citizens the right to access
information in federal government records. All
government departments are legally mandated to
respond to such requests and any perceived weakness in doing so will quickly lead to accusations
of withholding information and knowledge or,
being an inefficient organization and therefore
one that does not optimize the use of taxpayers
contributions.
In this particular case, the time required to
find a response was found to exceed three weeks
and the number of correct responses (or the success rate of answering the queries) was less than
50%. The department was determined to be more
timely, accurate and professional in their provision
of information to Canadian citizens. Ideally, they

29

Measuring the Impact of Social Media

wanted to be more proactive and therefore better


prepared at all times rather than reacting to each
query as a separate event.
One of the objectives of the senior managers
in this department was to learn from each query
and to document what occurred in finding each
and every response. An analysis was conducted
to follow the thread of the query to the end of the
response cycle. Everyone involved in the information search and exchange process was asked to keep
a record of who they contacted for what type of
information, how frequently they interacted with
them, how successful each interaction was and
the media they used to exchange information. A
checklist was provided to each participant to help
them note what occurred in all the information
exchanges and knowledge sharing interactions.
A sample is shown in Table 2.
In addition to the checklist data, it was helpful
to have a few follow up interviews both individually and with small groups of individuals
involved in processing Access to Information
requests. Typical questions asked at these sessions
included:
1. How useful was the information you receive
from each colleague in helping to get your
work done?

2. Who do you typically seek work-related


information from? Why? (Based on past history of receiving useful information, personality, availability, quality of information?)
3. Who do you typically give work-related
information to? What are some of your motivations? (Do you feel you have no choice?
Reciprocity?)
4. How effective is each person listed below
in helping you to think through new or challenging problems at work?
5. How well do you understand this persons
knowledge and skills?
6. Do you know who to ask what type of
question?
The checklist data provides the needed level
of detail and volume of data while the follow-up
interviews allow the data to be better understood.
The media and interaction analysis was done
before any changes were carried out to improve
the situation, in order to attain a good portrait of
the existing knowledge flows. The checklist was
used instead of a questionnaire in order to obtain
more accurate data over a longer period of time.
The data collected was then used to develop a
social network to visually depict who interacted
with whom, using which tools and so forth. This
analysis quickly showed that some people actively

Table 2. Sample checklist to obtain data on knowledge sharing


Communication channel

Telephone
Fax
Face-to-face
Email
MSN, Skype
Discussion forum/listserv
Community of Practice
Other please specify

30

Interaction with:

When?
How frequently?

Reason why

Outcome
(successful? What
did you receive?

Please comment on
why you chose this
means

Measuring the Impact of Social Media

Figure 1. a. Before: Highly sequential knowledge flow; b. After: Highly networked knowledge flow

avoided interacting with one another (due to personality issues) and that there was more fence
building than bridge building among the community of employees required to answer access to
information requests. The social network analysis
technique was a quick and fairly straightforward
way to show the flow of information between
people and knowledge sources. Presenting such a
diagram even without naming names showed
everyone involved where the bottlenecks were.
Each person involved in the requests that were
analyzed over a three-month period completed the
checklists as best they could. The social network
results allowed each person to better understand
their role and how what they did impacted others
and ultimately, the outcome of the request.
A number of team building sessions and
brainstorming sessions were then held in order
to help the team standardize what they needed
to do. The employees also used these sessions to
share and better encapsulate their knowledge and
what they have learned from doing past responses
to queries. In this way, an organizational learning
cycle was established. Participants were encouraged to contribute their worst war stories what
was the hardest request they ever had to deal with.
Next the facilitator asked participants to describe
a request so routine they could almost find the
response with their eyes closed. The final question was to ask participants what criteria served
to distinguish the routine from the very difficult

requests. These sessions helped everyone involved


better understand who was in the loop and how
the loop functioned. They could then see where
improvements could be made.
Figures 1a and 1b show a schematized version of the before and after social network
diagrams.
The social network analysis was employed as
a pretest-posttest type of evaluation tool, in order
to assess the impact an organizational change can
have on the flow of knowledge, the choice of
media to exchange that knowledge and to at least
correlate this with an improvement in efficiency,
time-on-task and success of the outcomes. The
term correlation is used instead of the stronger
term causality due to the complex nature of organizational settings. Although the organization was
fairly stable during the time of the study (i.e. there
were no major changes such as downsizing, retirements, other turnover in the team, changes in
mandate, changes in morale and so forth), it is
very difficult to control for all possible variables
in such a setting.
The same checklist was used to assess the
post-change environment. The key differences
were decreased individual-to-individual chains
of information and knowledge exchange (e.g.
face-to-face meetings, email to one person and
telephone calls) in favor of a broadcast to the
whole team approach. The community of practice in particular greatly increased in frequency

31

Measuring the Impact of Social Media

of usage and quickly became the preferred social


medium for all employees. Instead of emailing,
they posted updates, pooled their knowledge
resources and asked for help on the community
of practice shared space (on their intranet). The
response time to information access requests was
greatly improved (an average of six days instead
of three weeks to respond) and the number of
complaints decreased by 30%.
This case study is used to illustrate the potential
offered by social networking analysis to evaluate the impact that an organizational change can
have on the communication, collaboration and
connection patterns of employees affected by
the change. For example, a training session or
the introduction of new communication medium
such as Twitter or a wiki may be the target and
the pretest-posttest model can be used as part of
the business case for using such social media in
the workplace.

DISCUSSION
As Bourdieu (1986) observes, the existence
of connections is not a natural given, or even
a social given. .. it is the product of an endless
effort at institution (p. 249). The case study illustrates this point strongly the sharing and flow
of knowledge must be designed, facilitated and
assessed in order to continually optimize the contribution of network members to an organizational
goal in this case, timely and accurate responses
to citizen enquiries. The role of social media in
such networks is at a minimum twofold: both
as technological facilitators of many-to-many
knowledge sharing and as an assessment tool
and methodology to evaluate the efficiency and
effectiveness of knowledge sharing.
Cross et al (2004) note that
Social network analysis provides a means with
which to identify and assess the health of strategically important networks within an organization.

32

By making visible these otherwise invisible


patterns of interaction, it becomes possible to
work with important groups to facilitate effective
collaboration they can re-focus executive attention on how organizational design decisions and
leadership behaviors affect the relationships and
information flows that are at the heart of how work
is done with social network analysis, managers
have a means of assessing the effects of decisions
on the social fabric of the organization (p. 17).
Social media can be quite effectively assessed
with respect to their impact and the benefits they
bring to improving connecting, communicating
and collaborating within organizations. The use
of action research methods together with social
network analysis provides a powerful toolkit for
investigating what happens when a new communication medium, a new technology or a change
in work process is introduced. The proposed
evaluation framework is thus easily extended to
evaluate not only social media but any organizational change, from a social networking lens.

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY ON
SOCIAL NETWORK ANALYSIS
An excellent annotated bibliography has been
compiled by Patti Anklam and Bruce Hoppe. The
references are grouped into the following themes:
1. Social and personal networks in organizations
2. Communities of practice
3. Networks, business and knowledge
management
4. Organizational networks research
5. The science of networks
6. SNA textbooks
7. Brief readings and articles
8. Websites and blogs.
Refer to: Annotated bibliography of social network analysis for business. Connectedness. May

Measuring the Impact of Social Media

5, 2005. Available online at: http://connectedness.


blogspot.com/2005/05/annotated-bibliographyof-social.html.

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KEY TERMS AND DEFINITIONS4


Connection: A connection can be defined as
a person is connected with another through
common interest; a political, social, professional
or commercial relationship; a set of persons associated together. Synonyms include coherence,
continuity, and clan.
Communication: A process by which information is exchanged between individuals through
a common system of symbols, signs, or behaviour.
Synonym: information exchange.
Collaboration: To work jointly with others
or together especially in an intellectual endeavour;
to cooperate with an agency or instrumentality
with which one is not immediately connected;
to labour together from the Latin.
Explicit Knowledge: Consists of anything that
can be codified, or expressed in words, numbers,
and other symbols (such as plans, marketing
surveys, customer lists, specifications, manuals,
instructions for assembling components, scientific
formulae, graphics) and can, therefore, be easily
articulated, usually in the form of documents,
processes, procedures, products, and practices5.

Measuring the Impact of Social Media

Human Capital: Health, knowledge, motivation, and skills, the attainment of which is regarded
as an end in itself (irrespective of their income
potential) because they yield fulfillment and
satisfaction to the possessor. In an organizational
context, human capital refers to the collective value
of the organizations intellectual capital (competencies, knowledge, and skills). This capital is
the organizations constantly renewable source
of creativity and innovativeness (and imparts it
the ability to change) but is not reflected in its
financial statements. Unlike structural capital,
human capital is always owned by the individuals
who have it, and can walk out the door unless it
is recorded in a tangible form, or is incorporated
in the organizations procedures and structure6.
Intellectual Capital: Collective knowledge
(whether or not documented) of the individuals in
an organization or society. This knowledge can be
used to produce wealth, multiply output of physical assets, gain competitive advantage, and/or to
enhance the value of other types of capital. Intellectual capital is now beginning to be classified as
a true capital cost because (1) investment in (and
replacement of) people is tantamount to investment in machines and plants, and (2) expenses
incurred in education and training (to maintain the
shelf life of intellectual assets) are equivalent to
depreciation costs of physical assets. Intellectual
capital includes customer capital, human capital,
intellectual property, and structural capital7.
Social Capital: Stock of communitys goodwill and trust acquired by an organization over the
years, through its understanding and addressing
of the concerns and priorities of the citizens. See
also social value8.
Social Media: (1) The online tools that people
use to share content, profiles, opinions, insights,
experiences, perspectives and media itself, thus
facilitating conversations and interaction online
between groups of people. These tools include
blogs, message boards, podcasts, micro blogs,
lifestreams, bookmarks, networks, communities,
wikis, and vlogs. A few prominent examples of

social media applications are Wikipedia (reference), MySpace and Facebook (social networking), Twitter and Jaikue (presence apps), YouTube
(video sharing), Second Life (virtual reality),
Upcoming (Events), Digg and Reddit (news aggregation), Flickr and Zooomr (photo sharing),
Blogtv, Justin.tv, and Ustream (livecasting),
Stickham, YourTrumanShow (episodic online
video), Izimi and Pownce (media sharing), del.icio.
us (bookmarking) and World of Warcraft (online
gaming); (2) The democratization of content and
the understanding of the role people play in the
process of not only reading and disseminating
information, but also how they share and create
content for others to participate. It is the shift
from a broadcast mechanism to a many-to-many
model, rooted in a conversational format between
authors and people (Solis, 2007).
Structural Cohesion: The minimum number
of members who, if removed from a group, would
disconnect the group.9
Structural Hole: Static holes that can be strategically filled by connecting one or more links
to link together other points. Linked to ideas of
social capital: if you link to two people who are
not linked you can control their communication10.
Tacit Knowledge: Knowledge or understanding which is stored in an individuals head or
embedded within the culture of an organisation.
It is not written down and therefore is difficult to
share without direct contact and coaching by the
individual who holds the knowledge11.

ENDNOTES
1

Great minds think differently - An interview with Robert Buckman. Association


of Knowledge Work,. Available at: http://
kwork.org/white_papers/buckman.html.
See definitions at the end of the chapter.
Treasury Board of Canada, http://www.tbssct.gc.ca/atip-aiprp/index-eng.asp.

35

Measuring the Impact of Social Media

36

(Merriam Webster online dictionary. Retrieved May 31, 2009 from: http://www.
merriam-webster.com/dictionary/connection.
http://www.quantum3.co.za/CI%20Glossary.htm
Business dictionary: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/intellectualcapital.html.



9

7
8

10
11

Ibid.
Ibid.
Moody and White (2003)
Ibid.
www.infoskills.scot.nhs.uk/courses/mod/
glossary/view.php

37

Chapter 3

Challenging our Assumptions:


Making Sense of the Sharing
of Social Knowledge
Suzanne Roff-Wexler
Compass Point Consulting, USA
Loretta L. Donovan
Innovation Partners International, USA
Salvatore Rasa
im21 (innovation/measurement 21st. century), USA

ABSTRACT
This chapter explores the assumptions we make, the questions we ask, and the social knowledge we
use to make decisions about our personal and business lives. It poses provocative questions challenging
assumptions about using social media to know what we know. The three co-authors take the position of
transparency to engage in a dialogue around issues that they agree are critical to any thoughtful exploration of social media: trust, assumptions, and reality. Personal experiences and anecdotes provide context
for scholarly ideas and references. The chapter offers its readers a method to continue the dialogue.
Cada cabeza es un mundo (Every head is a world) Cuban proverb

INTRODUCTION
In this chapter, we explore the assumptions we
make, the questions we ask, and the social knowledge we use to make decisions in our personal
and business lives. We pose provocative questions challenging assumptions about using social
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-203-1.ch003

media to know what we know. The structure of


the chapter departs from the traditional in several
ways. First, in the spirit of transparency we share
who we are and describe our approach. Secondly,
we disclose our biases in an effort to express our
own authentic perspectives and voices to the topics
under consideration. Finally, we do not attempt to
provide a formal review of the literature, and have
chosen instead to suggest the relevant research

Copyright 2011, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.

Challenging our Assumptions

and points of view which inform our thinking and


may illuminate the way to greater understanding.

Who We Are
Suzanne Roff-Wexler is a consulting psychologist
focused on 21st technology and psychology, social
media, narrative, and collective knowledge. She is
co-founder and senior partner of Psychology21C
-- a collaborative venture dedicated to applying
new technologies, including virtual environments,
to the science of human behavior. As president of
Compass Point Consulting, she provides executive
coaching and consulting to client organizations.
She has a passion for bringing people together to
have meaningful conversations, learn, collaborate,
and make sense of personal and organizational life.
Loretta L. Donovan is a cutting edge, versatile contributor to organizational development
and corporate learning. Her professional life
includes the internal role of Corporate Director
of Organizational Learning and Leadership with
the Health Quest, a hospital and healthcare system, and external consulting as an associate of
Innovation Partners International, and principal
of the Worksmarts Group. Based on a wealth of
experience as an executive, consultant, and academic, she has focused on dialogue, knowledge
creation and critical action in organizational life.
She is an early adopter of Web 2.0 and fosters the
use of open source and social media for digital
collaboration. Technology companies, professional sports teams, healthcare institutions and
universities are among the places where she has
helped successful transformation of vision and
viewpoints, new organizational structures, and
redesign of business processes.
Salvatore Rasa claims that he usually does
not fit in anywhere in particular. He has a B.A. in
philosophy and a M.F.A in directing. Fortunately,
he has been able to work in a variety of learning,
organization design and strategic communication
projects for global companies, the people who
live on his block in New York City, and several

38

of the worlds wonderful arts institutions. Often,


his work has involved teams experiencing radical
change in over 120 countries and sometimes, its
been with a small group of dedicated professionals
who understand that their own networks provide
answers that should be shared. Providing, they
can be heard. Sal is a founding member of im21
(Innovation - Measurement 21st Century) which
focuses on inclusive communication in a diverse
global workplace. He is president of generating
community driven solutions dedicated to the
notion that the ability of an organization or community to communicate is a direct reflection of
the overall health of that entity.

Our Approach
When we began the process of drafting this
chapter, the references that each of the co-authors
assembled tended to fall along two distant poles:
one abstract and statistically academic, and the
other promotional and close to marketing hype.
We were looking for something different more
personally expressive, collaborative; challenging
not only assumptions, but the way in which much
social media oriented literature now exists. We
decided to position our writing within a middle
zone. We conjured a place where we were transparent as co-authors and where we could dialogue
around what we agree is critical to any thoughtful
exploration of social media: truth, assumptions,
and reality. It brought to mind a quote recently
shared by a friend that came from his grandfather,
If you want to know anything, ask five biased
people because there isnt any other kind. Well,
here we are three biased people eager to dialogue
about knowing what we know. Or as Socrates
reminds us, I know that I am intelligent, because
I know that I know nothing.

Dont Keep Secrets


Michael is five years old. His parents work in IT.
He has three BlackBerrys to play with.

Challenging our Assumptions

Q. Michael, do you have good teachers in your


school?
A. Our teachers are very good. We do fun stuff
with them.
Q. Why are they good teachers?
A. They do fun stuff with us and thats kind of
learning.
Q. Whats an example of what they teach you?
A. Definitely not hitting. All the kids dont
always listen to the teacher.
Q. Do you learn things from people other than
your teachers?
A. Kids learn from other kids.
Q. Do you teach other kids?
A. I dont teach them how to train cats.
Q. Why do you like to train cats?
A. I work with cats and cats are very soft and
they are nice.
Q. So you dont teach other kids about this, but
how did you learn to train cats?
A. I did not learn, I just know. I did not learn
anything from anyone else.
Q. Why do you like BlackBerrys?
A. I like the BlackBerrys because I can send
and get e-mails. (His parents say he never
does either. But Michael insists he does.)
Q. Do you know about the Internet? What do
you like about it?
A. You listen to people when they say nice
things. When they dont, you dont listen.
They tell you things you might not know and
sometimes, they ask you things you might
know. They have to be nice (on the Internet)
or I would not listen to them.
Q. What do your parents teach you?
A. They teach me things that I do not know.
Q. Do you like to learn things from the other
kids?
A. Not always. Because we might be having a
disagreement and if there is not a teacher,
that might be bad.
Q. How can I learn things, because I dont go
to school anymore?
A. Dont keep secrets.

TRUST
We have chosen to begin our examination of social
knowledge by looking at trust and its implications
with Suzanne opening the dialogue. In her words:
Trust, assumptions, and reality are integral
aspects of my practice as a psychologist in nonclinical and clinical settings. As I begin this
conversation with my co-authors by focusing on
trust, let me add that for me trust, that intangible
quality, is a felt sense between me and a client. It
involves many unconscious and conscious verbal
and non-verbal cues, but it is so much more than
trust me. I am a licensed professional with an
ethical responsibility to maintain confidentiality, to
do no harm, and not to profit personally from the
client relationship. Trust, in that role is a reflective
self-awareness, a kind of pattern recognition, an
internal state of calm, perhaps emanating from a
strong sense of being true to oneself. But that
is only one category or way to view trust. If there
were a taxonomy of trust, you would see many
different categories in addition to trust of self, such
as trust of others, of organizations, of country, of
God, or of social knowledge. I assume its presence,
therefore I am alive and evidence of that principle:
trust begins with self, is experienced with others,
and then is further challenged by workplaces and
21st century technology.
It is almost a clich to state that trust is the
foundation of any good relationship. What interests me here is trust in the context of how social
knowledge is created and used. In the essay, On
Regulating What is Known, social epistemologist R. Buckminster Fuller (1987) suggests that
having knowledge is ultimately a matter of
credibility. What is striking is that his ideas have
much significance for a Web 2.0 world that did
not exist when he wrote them. Fuller argues that
given the numerous ways people can draw on
each others work, centers of credibility in the
knowledge production process do not necessarily
imply a convergence of opinion that is any deeper
than who the credible knowledge producers are.

39

Challenging our Assumptions

We see this in the phenomenon of social knowledge coming through the emerging social media.
What is credible (and what is trusted) and
how do we know it? Fuller (1987) points out that
a premium is placed on works which can render
redundant much of what is already in circulation.
Think of wikis, those continuously editable Web
pages. He tells us that our interpretations and
synopses pass as translations for the original work
and begin to accrue credibility for their new producers while diminishing if not entirely subsume
the credibility of the producers whose works are
replaced (p. 180). His punch line is that with all
these revisions and translations that supplant the
original work, retention becomes spotty and the
contents of a text can be lost without ever having
been definitively refuted, only to be recovered at
some future date to revolutionize the particular
knowledge production process (p. 181).
Fullers ideas as well as those of other epistemologists (e.g., Alvin I. Golden, 1986) provide
intellectual fodder to our exploration. Isnt trust
just another paradigm of what is intrinsic to survival? It requires a context such as a relationship
(with self or other) or a reliance on something
more intangible, such as knowledge. Can I trust
social media full of collective intelligence to
provide what I need? Can I trust myself to be
cognizant enough to sort through information
that may imposter as knowledge and make sense
of it? Once, we trusted or were skeptical about
what we read or heard in traditional mass media
(newspapers, radio, and television). Now we have
a different paradigm to navigate. Social media
begins to be about new kinds of communication
where factual content, opinion, and conversation
often cant be clearly separated (Manovich,
2009, p. 326). We see this in blogs where much
of an entry consists of comments about something
copied from or linked to another source. Likewise,
forums generate posts leading to discussions that
go into new directions often with the original item
long forgotten (Manovich, 2009).

40

The questions then become: Is trust a trait,


that is, an innate propensity that emerges as a
state given certain contexts? Can one truly
love without trust? Do we trust each other not
to criticize or hurt the other? Do we trust each
other to tell the truth and not deceive? What is
it that I ask you to trust about me? Our assumption abound at the same time: To survive in the
world, we need a certain adaptive intelligence that
relies on trust to initiate behavior. Trust can be
earned like any other commodity. Children are
socialized to trust their parents but often learn that
it is not an absolute.
Let me take my thoughts one step further. Inviting colleagues to collaborate to write a chapter
requires a leap of trust. Can I trust that my coauthors will contribute in a timely fashion? Can
I trust their integrity to give credit where credit
is due and not plagiarize others works? Must I
assess my sense of them when face to face, our
interaction through virtual conferences, social
networking sites, etc.? How do I know that I can
trust them? Furthermore, can I trust the synergy
that our three contributions will be greater than
the whole? Yes. On the other hand, can I trust
scientific research to provide me with findings
sufficient enough to answer my questions?
Lets now turn to a brief story that may illustrate some of my thinking. This is about a recent
engagement with a coaching client (identity is a
composite of several clients). She often struggles
with whether or not she can trust some of the people
she works with. From my perspective, trust has
been a lifelong challenge for her and its getting
played out in the workplace as if she were in her
family of origin. Over time shes grown to trust
me, demonstrate vulnerability, and be more open
to the interpretations I make. We often focus on
how her goals, much like life, can be nonlinear.
She may plan and execute a management decision
that does not go the way she predicted given the
complex context within which she works. She
assumes that things go linearly from point A to Z
and gets disappointed when they dont. Perhaps

Challenging our Assumptions

its an irrational position but this disappointment fuels her sense of not trusting. Outside of
the workplace, she has a few close relationships
within her informal networks where she can trust
too much. Our coaching work has focused on this
critical aspect of adapting to life finding the best
degree and balance between trusting herself and
others. These dynamics play out in a coaching
client relationship built on trust. But I cant tell
you where it comes from. Psychoanalytic thinkers
might call it transference (an unconscious feeling
from early life with caregivers that is transferred
onto the current situation). Others might say trust
is learned each time there are more positive results
than negative ones. While it is not my purpose to
explore the developmental and behavioral theories
regarding trust, I think trust underlies our ability
to adapt to life and be resilient to its challenges.
Sal continues the conversation, asking, What
are the languages of social knowledge and how
does our use of language build trust? In his words:
My colleagues, Suzanne and Loretta, are used
to my launching into stories. They always take
time to be patient with me. After all, trust takes
time and time changes (or at least it feels like it
does), depending on what form or type of communication we engage in. Trust, however, always
begins and ends with ourselves. How we trust and
authenticate information today relies on how we
respond using the communication tools we now
have at hand. While they may seem unique, they
are not so terribly different from those found any
time in history. The difference may be that today
we expect that technology will always change
based on our interactions. This is a bit different
from waiting to learn whats new. No longer do
we live in anticipation for the next Worlds Fair
to exhibit where we are headed. Now, its just
a start up time away. The next entrepreneur
comes with the morning coffee as we browse the
Web. Consider as well, that the role of shaman
has moved from the center of the physical circle
to the margins of communities that populate the
Internet. Every tribe has had its storytellers. To-

day, we interact with them and not just listen. In


my view, trust emanates from the ways in which
we use and understand language. Let me explain
this point of view further by way of some stories.

A Great Mentor Who Understands


the Humanity of Language
I first met Cicely Berry when I was a graduate
student, working as a stage manager. While touring
with members of the Royal Shakespeare Company
(RSC) around several New York colleges, Cis
and I would often hide out in my Volkswagen
Beetle to avoid people who wanted to talk to and
be photographed with this world renowned voice
expert. We became friends. More than thirty-five
years later, in 2007, I co-produced and directed a
documentary on her work called Where Words
Prevail. The title comes from The Spanish Tragedy, an Elizabethan tragedy written by Thomas
Kyd between 1582 and 1592. The full quote is:
Where words prevail not, violence prevails.
While working on this documentary, which
took several years, we were told by interested
people that the subject matter would never make
it to television. However, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) telecast in the United States
alone reached over ninety-million households
within four weeks. While Cicelys work focuses
on understanding and accurately speaking the
text as actors and directors, she continues to be a
powerful force helping diverse communities all
over the world. She is currently voice director of
The Royal Shakespeare Company. A Marxist, she
nevertheless earned an O.B.E (Order of the British
Empire) and recently, a C.B.E. (Commander of
the British Empire). More than one world leader
has asked for and accepted her advice.
Cicelys lifes work is remarkable from the
great stages, to the most challenged living environments on earth. Her workshops on speaking
the text of Shakespeare have affected the work of
many theater professionals. However, these same
workshops have also deeply enriched peoples

41

Challenging our Assumptions

lives all over the world, in prisons and places


such as a Brazilian favella where the ability to
speak is often directly connected to survival.
People find the subject matter of the documentary
Where Words Prevail quite accessible because,
through her voice work, Cicely always presents
an unwavering commitment to the human spirit.
Neither position nor power can ever influence her
to take that sense of trust away from anyone, regardless of their circumstance. If our inner voice
is inhibited, as she says, terrible things happen.
Nothing should inhibit our ability to trust our need
to communicate freely. While she works with the
most accomplished actors, directors and writers
of our time, Cicely will do the same work with
people in places many of us would fear to visit.
Cicely has taught me: All we do, we do out of
a need to survive. For her, a fundamental issue
of trust resides in our agreement to dignify all
people and to hear one another, no matter what
the language. In her latest book, From Word To
Play: A Textual Handbook for Actors and Directors (Berry, 2008), she writes:
There are now roughly six thousand languages
spoken across the world. By the end of this century
it is estimated by linguists that probably only about
three thousand will have survived.
In her statement, she is referring to Mark
Ableys Spoken Here, Travels Among Threatened
Languages (2005). Cicely also mentions Sello
Maake Ka-Ncube, as a great South African actor
whose native language is Zulu. Ka-Ncube said
to her one day: Each language has its own way
of naming the world. With all this in mind, she
asks two critical questions: The essence of just
how many cultures are we going to lose? And,
how are we naming our own culture?
Walter J. Ong, in his book, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (2002), an
exploration of the differences between oral and
literate cultures, makes a clear distinction between
our traditional languages and what he calls so

42

called computer languages. So-called computer


languages resemble human languages (English,
Sanskrit, Malayalam, Mandarin Chinese, Twi
or Shoshone etc.) in some ways, but are forever
totally unlike human languages in that they do not
grow out of the unconscious but directly out of
consciousness. Computer language rules (grammar) are stated first and thereafter used. The
rules of grammar in natural human languages
are used first and can be abstracted from usage
and stated explicitly in words only with difficulty
and never completely (Ong, 2002, p. 7). This provokes a thought. Does grammar actually create
a framework for trust? Was that a fundamental
role for the development of grammar? How are
we changing that framework with computer
language and social knowledge exchange?

Is There a Language of
Social Knowledge That Does
Not Exclude People?
For Cicely Berry, its our drive to be literal with
todays language that she finds dysfunctional and
not expressive. She communicates concern and
describes issues such as the business language of
the Internet. She asks if it will actually change
the right- and left-brain use of poor people. She
questions our ability to hear language.
I recall reading several years ago about The
World Economic Conference at Davos, Switzerland, where it was stated that over 500 million
people were already using the Internet while
more than 400 thousand people had yet to make
their first phone call. Cicelys wisdom questions
our ability to hear language as she puts it. Her
discussions of social knowledge and information
sharing provoke me to question the way language
is getting reduced to a new shorthand today. LOL,
K, BFF, are now complete thoughts.
In another example, Cicely explains that the
primary form of entertainment, during the early
days of the Gold Rush in America, was reciting
the words of Shakespeare. Because many people

Challenging our Assumptions

could not read, the words were passed on from one


prospector to another. The heightened language
was a delight to the well-worn workers in pursuit
of gold. Perhaps, the rhyme and rhythm provided
a sense of relief and relaxation, while sharing
history with their everyday realities. What was
it that they shared as social knowledge? They
could hear the language and speak it. Cicely often
points out that reading Shakespeare is very different than speaking it. Thats why so many literary
critics miss the humor, sexuality, and political
importance of Shakespeares works. I witnessed
this while filming teenagers in one of Brazils
most dangerous favellas one day, as the students
were analyzing a scene from Hamlet after one of
Cicelys workshops. The discussion was startling.
And the one-week, ten-hour a day workshops were
totally energetic and productive. The students were
never bored and always focused on the work. We
could regularly hear the usual gunshots from the
neighborhood. In that extremely difficult environment, with a great mentor present, we all could
hear the language of their lives.

We live like that in many ways today. Traditional transaction, while implicit, is also now
represented by a completely different set of circumstances that rely on an integrated supply chain
of trust. In the very fundamental issues of survival
-- health, finance, and politics, we are providing
an astounding collection of living metaphors that
name our world. In the words of young Michael,
if you want to learn. .. dont keep secrets.
Making assumptions about trust is always a
risk. The word trust may be interpreted as something that creates safety. For example, when is it
safe to share information with a trusted person or
group of people?
However, the intentions for seeking trust may
not always be unilaterally safe to everyone.
Heres a story published by KTLA in California, in 2009.

Drive Through Trust or, An


Integrated Supply Chain of
Trust? Its our Choice

ONTARIO, Calif. -- State lawmakers are holding


a hearing today in Ontario to discuss the rise in
the number of criminal gangs using networking
sites like Twitter and Facebook.
Officials say the hearing entitled Gangs 2.0:
The Emerging Threat of Cyberthugs will explore
the use of social networking tools in gang recruitment and gang-related crime.
Assembly majority leader Alberto Torrico, and
attorney general candidate says gang members
both in and out of prison are making more use
of technology.
Social networking is a great way to reach
out to others, update them on activities, exchange
information and support a cause, Torrico said.
Unfortunately, gangs are using these tools
to communicate, recruit, issue threats, traffic
narcotics, promote violence and expand their
criminal activities.

Today, we demonstrate our sense of trust or we


authenticate truth for ourselves in new ways
often in collaboration with people or entities we
know nothing about. Take the ATM machine for
example. If my grandparents had been told forty
years ago that they would put an identification
card into the machinery of a bank with which they
had no relationship, who may even be a competitor of their chosen bank, they would have never
believed it to be sane. Yet, every time we insert a
debit card to get the money we want, there exists
a system of partnerships and alliances that work
for thirty seconds or so, to authenticate, before
the twenty bucks slides out with a receipt loaded
with highly confidential information.

Cyber Thugs: Gangs Use Facebook, Twitter to


Recruit and Organize
KTLA News
12:44 PM PST, November 19, 2009

43

Challenging our Assumptions

According to Torricos office, gang members


are heavily involved on social networks, with a
recent survey finding:
70 percent of gang members say its easier
to make friends online than in the real world 89
percent of students say they are the primary users
of technology in the home 41 percent do not share
with their parents where they go on the Internet
Cell phones are another tool used by gangs to
coordinate activities, including among members
who are already behind bars, Torrico says.
Over 4,100 cell phones have already been
confiscated in California state prisons this year
and corrections officials consider them a top
security threat.
Questioning our assumptions about this story
might also ensure that we not discount the potential
or actual value of social networking to positively
affect gang and prison issues.
What determines our ability to develop
ethically and be truly grounded in respect for our
humanity is now (as it has always been) directly
related to how we communicate. I have a bias.
I believe that something about our methods of
formalizing information in education and in
many business organizations makes us believe
that we should underestimate our imagination.
The philosopher, Immanuel Kant in The
Crtique of Pure Reason, implies that the imagination is the seat of our logic. In that sense, the
fundamentals of trust reside in our ability to see
the imagination as an organizer of truth and not
some human methodology for whimsical thinking.
We are taught to revere the imagination as artful
and distrust it as a means of deeper understanding of reality. Our imagination is meaningful to
helping us understand todays visual and audio
driven environment for sharing social knowledge.
And, we must take care not to exclude those who
may not see or hear. Hearing language is part of
our humanity, no matter what our circumstance.
In business, traditional transformation over the
last two decades has included concepts such as:

44

common process, information management, and


building collaborative behaviors. These are all
ways of work in which organizations invest time
and money with the purpose of achieving and then
measuring profitable change. Today, we also share
accountability within instantaneous supply chains
that must generate trust in conducting business.
Stphane Garelli (personal communication,
2008) is Professor at both the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) and
the University of Lausanne. He is an authority
on world competitiveness and also the director
of the IMDs World Competitiveness Center: his
research focuses particularly on how nations and
enterprises compete on international markets.
I asked him in 2008, why he had added the
concept of vulnerability to his list of competitive benchmarks?
Dear Mr. Rasa,
I am indeed highlighting the fact that vulnerability
is a key concern for CEOs today. The outsourcing
policies that we have seen during the past decade
have lead to a value chain that is leaner but longer.
It means that every company is now confronted
with a multiplication of partners to work with.
As a consequence, the level of complexity has
increased and also the level of vulnerability. In
the latter case, it means essentially that if a link of
the value chain is exposed to a breakdown, it can
stop the entire value chain. Even a small business
partner can stop a larger company from operating.
I hope that this will be useful.
Sharing knowledge through social networking
and media has never been solely a corporate owned
entity. However, the direct affect to ROI and the
bottom line becomes more and more evident as
technology and behavior intersect.
In the time it has taken to write these thoughts,
informal networks of people around the world have
made informal agreements based on trust that will
make it less possible tomorrow morning for large
companies to accurately measure the value of the

Challenging our Assumptions

organizational changes they have invested in over


the last ten years. You may hope thats an exaggeration. It is not. In large organizations, where
phrases like task force, communication plans,
and employee campaigns are still used, workers
will have networked their collective intelligence
far ahead of the management strategy timeline to
achieve expected results. Measurement of such
initiatives is often illusionary. Examples were
painful for companies such as American Telephone
& Telegraph (AT&T) and International Business
Machines Corporation (IBM) when information
regarding downsizing and retirement changes were
accelerated by employees talking to employees.
Loretta reflects and responds to these ideas with
an eye to the world of social media. She continues:
The expectations and means for communication began a major pattern of shifts from oral and
printed modes more than one hundred fifty years
ago. In The Social Life of Information (2000),
John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid suggest that
the telegraph was the first technological change
to accelerate the rate of information dissemination from the rate of human travel. The addition
of each successive technical medium for mass
communication has increased the pace and span
of information sharing, with the telephone, radio,
movies, and television achieving larger audiences
and greater immediacy. Even with the arrival of
Internet technology, the ratio of originator to audience remained one to many as a single author
or source broadcast information to the masses.
There was little means for the receiver to interact
with the sender. Technology had caused a level of
interference in the social aspects of communication. The underlying beliefs of the producers of
software, and its component digital code, gained
a belief in their personal power. They became the
driver of new egalitarian ways of work and work
products: free agents and open source technologies. And this is the intersection of trust, communication, and social media. It has spawned a new
concept, Radical Trust. Collin Douma (2006)
explains how this sweet spot calls for a new re-

lational contract among those who participate in


the culture of social media (especially in relation
to consumer markets):
You must radically trust that people:
1. are best equipped to determine their own
needs, and left to their own devices are best
equipped to get those needs met.
2. would rather be communicated with than
spoken to.
3. require freedom of expression, but often
require guidelines to create expressions
within.
4. will self-regulate communities to the level
guidelines suggest and that the collective
group they comprise will accept.
5. will disconnect with a brand that silences
them and will align with brands that give
them a voice.
6. (This one is the hardest) People are inherently good.
In 2006 the concept of Web 2.0 was barely two
years old. Chris Heuer saw the potential of this
new form and co-founded the Social Media Club
so people would assemble to share knowledge
about social media, technology, and related topics.
He explains why he promotes social media as a
means to come together:
Because participation is more broadly available
across society, it is the contexts in which we
interact with others that is most crucial within
those contexts we communicate with each other
and if through those communications, we reach
agreement to trust one another, we can collaborate
towards common goals. (Heuer, 2007)
Heuer and I both offered to assist Sandy Heierbacher, founder of the National Coalition for
Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) at a 2006 San
Francisco conference and to bring social media
onto the radar screen of community advocates.
They placed their trust in us to take them into a

45

Challenging our Assumptions

realm they never envisioned, yet alone participate


in. We had, by means of a social contract, mimicked the relational trends we were demonstrating.
Early adopters of new Web technologies seem
to enjoy the risk and thrill of trying something new.
They seem to operate more from instinct than from
any other motivation. However, trust is essential
for the second wave of users, the people who are
next to adopt new ways of living, working, and
community. That cohort needs trust in the technology, the security of support, and the community
of users they can reach out to. An example of
that occurred as Heuer and I met Juanita Brown
whose brainchild is the The World Caf (TWC),
a method for convening in-person conversations
around critical issues. She already had an online
forum but was entranced by social media and
started a blog right after our meeting. What she
wanted to inspire needed social media and led to
the launching of The World Cafe Online Community using Ning, a social collaboration site (http://
www.theworldcafecommunity.org). John Inman,
a TWC community member, posted a comment
that demonstrates the importance of the underlying premise for the practices and beliefs shared
among the members, Trust in the conversation
and trust in TWC process as that is where all of the
work is done. With over one-thousand members,
this community of practice relies on technology
and the presence of trusted members to be a vital
force for enhancing the skills and tools for robust,
thought-provoking digital conversations.
So what is it that we are counting on in our
relationships, collaborations, and technology
when we refer to trust? Theorists have made us
keenly aware of the need for trust while they look
at this construct through many lenses. Since our
perspectives are multi-disciplinary, a definition
that has been derived by finding the commonalities
across many fields is especially suitable. For that
reason, the multidimensional definition proposed
by Megan Tschannen-Moran and Wayne K. Hoy
(2000, p. 556) is one I have adopted: Trust is one
partys willingness to be vulnerable to another

46

party based on the confidence that the latter party


is (a) benevolent, (b) reliable, (c) competent, (d)
honest, and (e) open.
In my mind, as the relevance of social media to
our lives and work has already made its mark, the
human factors that establish norms for interaction
are no different from those we have valued and
adhered to in our face-to-face associations for
centuries. Recommitting to them and adapting
them to a Web 2.0 world is what we invite you
to consider.

ASSUMPTIONS
Sal takes the lead as we explore our second point
of departure, assumptions. In his view, Assumptions Can Be Comforting.
Christopher Columbus did not set out to
prove the world was round. During his time of
exploration, the scientific community had pretty
much come to that conclusion. It was really about
business, spices, power, and misconceptions about
other worlds.
After many centuries, we still teach children
the wonder of his quest. The only problem--the
assertion and the assumption to that sense of
wonderment has little to do with the reality of his
quest. But its an easy tale to tell. The common
understanding about Columbus is poetic in the
sense that our ability to exchange social knowledge has for centuries conditioned us to separate
common exchange from empirical data.
We believe what we are told or what we
read, often without looking for other forms of
documentation. Questioning, however, is also
part of our nature. And, when we question or seek
documentation, we sometimes accept results, even
when they contradict our individual or collective
experience. How long has it taken, for example,
to learn about the horrific practices of Christopher
Columbus along his journey and do people indeed
really believe the evidence even today? Depending on what community one relates to, the reality

Challenging our Assumptions

may be more or less compelling than continuing


to spin an inaccurate story.
We have a need to authenticate. Social
media from the days of the cave drawings to our
current posts and blogs push the virtual envelope
of forcing us to confront our sense of articulating
our experience. Social knowledge creates the kind
of disruption that helps us to authenticate.

What is Todays Equivalent of


Saying that Columbus Set Out to
Prove the World Was Round?
One might consider that social knowledge sharing
focuses on the conversation rather than just the
hypothesis or single question. Mass data allows
for different questioning than just a single story.
In fact, traditional business models are changing
or attempting to market their need to change as a
value to clients and customers.
Take for example, the Public Relations business. Its the nature of PR to tell stories. Listen
to what large PR companies describe as their
mission today.
Phrases like facilitating the conversation.
We dont create the message anymore, we help
people to tell their story and Advocacy are
common terms that I have heard in discussions
with PR executives.
I am not disparaging any particular skill or
type of organization. I am saying that concepts
such as Web 2.0 and 3.0 will be and are already
being commoditized as a kind of value add.
That kind of manipulation may not necessarily
drive progressive transformation to accelerate the
ease and relevancy of social knowledge sharing.

Authenticating is a Process
of Understanding and Not
a Paternal Dictate
Clarity resides in development of perception in
the context of what is real. From the point of
phenomenology, the truth is revealed through the

use of our inquisitive imagination to determine


a reality. What is real, we cannot change. Martin
Heidegger said: reality not the real, is dependent
upon care.
Social knowledge is more complex than telling
stories and more fundamental than the technology
formats that we know will constantly change.
Take for example, a recent statement from
a New York head and neck surgeon regarding
treatment to a man with an injury to his hearing.
The information flow through his electronic
medical records demonstrated an injury due to an
altercation. The legal and medical issues became
integrated. His treatment from one physician to
the next was always connected to the altercation.
Until, it got to me. My examination clearly demonstrated that his problem had nothing to do with the
altercation. Yet, an entire stream of documentation
and treatment were based on the earliest of the
recorded electronic documentation.
That story demonstrates how not questioning
assumptions can create a false sense of trust.

Heres Another Story


A doctor of informatics, whom I recently worked
with, told another story. While I was documenting on video how eighteen medical professionals
experienced their first year of using electronic
medical records, this physician spoke of his
compelling experience with two long-time adult
patients who could not read. For the first time he
said, the graph-like images from the electronic
records offered these people a way to see how
their health issues were working out and where
compliance and treatment were needed. He spends
40% of his time now with patients and 60% with
technology issues.
This recounting of this story and putting these
eighteen professionals into a cross boundary
conversation had significant results. Information
sharing was quickly increased and actual bottom
line improvement was achieved for patient care
and hospital costs. The unspoken realization was

47

Challenging our Assumptions

also addressed, that people within the organization were actually being conditioned not to share
information with one another. Imagine that in a
hospital?
Today, we use rapid technologies to convey
what once took time for consideration --and time
to build trust. We are working in ways we never
did before. Fast information does not necessarily create more credibility or deepen trust. Those
qualities are, as always, fundamentally connected
to our intentions. Technology exists to carry out
our intentions. Speed of information can reduce unnecessary conjecture and task. It cannot supersede
intention. Questioning online has become for us a
kind of business transformation that large companies went through over the last two decades. CRM
(customer relationship management), Knowledge
Management, ERP etc. etc. Now, we are realizing
that concepts such as Knowledge Management are
more dynamic than prescriptive. That we move
from event to event and not from repositories
only. Questioning assumptions becomes more
and more part of the conversation and not just a
response. We are learning this.
What do we convey and why? Who do we
want to reach? And, the realization that we may
not know the people we reach nor do we always
care about the recipient. The questioning of assumptions within the realm of social knowledge
is an opportunity for us to learn how to learn. It
is also part of our being.
There is something in the expression of social
knowledge that may seem the business of a solipsist, but that does not necessarily mean suspect in
nature or sinister in our intent to communicate. We
choose to be expressive because that is human.
The cave wall has become virtual. Often, on
places like Twitter, you will see someone complaining about a person who only posts things to
point out how intelligent they are. The intention
becomes questioned and the content is overlooked.
That is also very human.

48

Lawyers and Judges Dont Think So


Highly of Eye Witness Testimony
Visual and audio data affects us. Different people
see and hear the same message differently. Here is
an interesting reference which illustrates this. Its
not the scientific positioning or accuracy that I am
testifying to. The reference, however, provides an
interesting perspective on questioning something
as basic as our eyesight.
Unconscious inference. Hermann von Helmholtz
is often credited with the first study of visual perception in modern times. Helmholtz examined the
human eye and concluded that it was, optically,
rather poor. The poor quality information gathered
via the eye seemed to him to make vision impossible. He therefore concluded that vision could
only be the result of some form of unconscious
inferences: a matter of making assumptions and
conclusions from incomplete data, based on previous experiences.
Inference requires prior experience of the world:
examples of well-known assumptions - based on
visual experience - are:
light comes from above
objects are normally not viewed from below
faces are seen (and recognized) upright
The study of visual illusions (cases when the
inference process goes wrong) has yielded much
insight into what sort of assumptions the visual
system makes.
Another type of the unconscious inference hypothesis (based on probabilities) has recently been
revived in so-called Bayesian studies of visual
perception.

Challenging our Assumptions

Proponents of this approach consider that the


visual system performs some form of Bayesian
inference to derive a perception from sensory
data. Models based on this idea have been used
to describe various visual subsystems, such as the
perception of motion or the perception of depth.
(Eyesight, 2009)
I was taught in school that a human being
looking at a perfectly flat white plane becomes
blinded. If that is true, then it supports the idea
that we need disruption and obstruction to be
able to see clearly. A critical question of this book
chapter is to ask: In todays world of constantly
changing technology and mass data potential,
how do we ask the questions that we are not
even aware of?
Does the very nature of social knowledge exchange provide a contemporary and continuous
set of disruptive signals so that our perception
becomes sharper? Or, are we sharing and codeveloping an ability to learn in a time we really
have not seen before? Is that drive to learn as
significant as the knowledge we share?
Another take on assumptions is offered by Loretta. Her interest in knowledge co-creation honors
the person as a reliable and competent source.
In the domain of digital collaboration and social
media, assumptions of who the contributors are
become less useful to the process of knowledge
creation than transparency and authenticity about
individual and group competencies. We might
take for granted that everyone in the social space
is knowledgeable - suggesting knowledge is a
generic construct. So, if they know something,
they possess a homogenized understanding and
use of some concept or skills. There are shades
of understanding, however, as demonstrated in
many facets of life.
To clarify the competencies of a Web 2.0
world, Joan Torrent (Pea-Lpez, 2009), however,
enumerates four varieties of knowledge:

Know what: observable knowledge, nonrival, ability of exclusion, high increasing


returns, decreasing marginal utility, lock-in
Know why: observable knowledge, nonrival, medium ability of exclusion, high
increasing returns, decreasing marginal
utility, lock-in, network spillovers
Know how: tacit knowledge, low exclusion, medium increasing returns, decreasing marginal utility, low barriers of exit,
network spillovers
Know who: tacit knowledge, low exclusion, medium increasing returns, decreasing marginal utility, low barriers of exit,
network spillovers

In similar terms, psychologist Howard Gardner


offers multiple intelligences, the aptitudes for
learning and using certain types of knowledge, as
a way to value and differentiate talent. In 1983,
he published Frames of Mind, the book in which
he introduced MI theory.
My research in cognitive development and cognitive breakdown convinced me that this traditional
view of intellect is not tenable. Individuals have
different human faculties and their strength (or
weakness) in one intellectual sphere simply does
not predict whether a particular individual will
be strong or weak in some other intellectual component. I developed a definition of intelligencea
biopsychological information-processing capacity to solve problems or fashion products that are
valued in at least one community and culture. I
think of the intelligences as a set of relatively
independent computers. One computer deals
with language, a second with spatial information, a third with information about other people.
(Gardner, 2005, p. 6)
Because Gardner wrote his book as a psychologist, addressing principally his colleagues
in psychology, he had no expectations for the
application of his ideas to the mainstream. As

49

Challenging our Assumptions

we come together to co-create new knowledge,


the variation of ways in which each person can
contribute to building new concepts and applying
them as intellectual capital becomes an assumed
asset of the community. We have the expectation
that differences exist, and that those are ways in
which our virtual social relationships, communications mediated by various forms of technology,
and complexity of thought and solutions benefit
from them.
Suzanne enlightens the conversation by
confronting resistance to social media and the
preconceived notions that surround the sharing
and social creation of knowledge.
Assumptions come in all shapes and colors.
We assume the sun will rise tomorrow and we
are correct. We assume that there is something
to learn from social media. We assume we will
learn something relevant by using search engines
and that may be or may not be so. I assume many
people resist change for a variety of reasons. I
have been surprised how many psychology colleagues avoid learning about social media. What
I dont understand is how someone engaged in
the understanding of human behavior would be
so resistant to considering new technologies to
further clinical or non-clinical goals. A friend sent
me a blog posting that reviewed copyright holders
claims demanding restrictions on their inventions,
essentially attempting to thwart innovation:
The anxious rhetoric around new technology
is really quite shocking in its vehemence, from
claims that the player piano will destroy musical
taste and the national throat to concerns that
the VCR is like the Boston strangler to claims
that only Hollywoods premier content could make
the DTV transition a success. Most of it turned
out to be absurd hyperbole (Anderson, 2009)
There is so much fear around how social media
is impacting personal relationships, cognitive and
language skills. Then there are others who assume
that it is the source of collective knowledge that

50

can be useful even to solve sticky problems. So


many assumptions. Show me the research or show
me the facts which, by the way, we know may one
day be disproven!
Researchers are developing algorithms and
other methods to make sense of our social knowledge from natural occurring language in objective texts such as newspapers to more subjective
content found in blogs and other postings. In the
newness of the quest for making sense of social
knowledge through social media, new methods
have emerged but many are not commonly accepted making it more problematic to dialog across
boundaries about the art and science of knowledge.
Emotions are an integral part of many text types
and form a central role in the emerging social
media, which are focused largely on sharing
experiences and ideas. The automatic analysis
of texts for their emotion content is desirable for
many purposes, but the exploratory research to
date has not settled on standard notions. (Hakki,
C., Cankaya, H. C., Moldovan, D., 2009)
As Web users continue to participate in social media, contributing new content, rating it,
expressing opinions and commenting on digital
content found in articles and video as well as real
world product,
.. .they organize online content by tagging it and
they participate in online communities. As a result
of this massive user participation in Web applications, large amounts of user-generated data are
collected. Combining the behavior, preferences
and ideas of masses of users that are imprinted
in this data can result into novel insights and
knowledge; this process is frequently denoted to
as the emergence of Collective Intelligence. (Papadopoulos, S., Kompatsiaris, Y., Vakali, A., 2009)
Recently I communicated with my cousin
Tristan, an Internet entrepreneur. Our online chat

Challenging our Assumptions

reflectively focused on the language we were


using to communicate.
T: tyvm
S:translation please
T: Thank You Very Much. Youre interested
in social behaviors right?
S:Yes very much
T: I have been saying for years now that Internet
vernacular will become part of real world speech,
and I see that happening already -- things like lol
and brb tyvm. I first noticed it with emoticons
(:) &:P) those would appear in emails and letters
and then abbreviations showed up online and those
quickly caught on with BFF being one of the first
S:BFF? I need to become more literate. BTW
T: BFF = Best Friends Forever, but its lost
that exact meaning these days. Now its used to
describe a best friend. Turn on E! for 20 mins and
I am sure you will hear it and many other Internet
sourced terms.
I noticed you know BTW also part of the
same phonon
S:Yes that was my first
T: :) [read turning around smiley face}
S:That I havent seen a emoticon that moves.
There is clearly a psychology to all of this.
T: I just emailed you our chat btw
S:btw tyvm
T: Nice (not short for anything) oh oh to finish
up on my point. I believe this trend is going to
continue until you see these terms in the English
dictionary and used as frequently and easily as
the word The. One example of that is google
-- to google is an acceptable verb.
S:That makes sense because it seems that
society is providing the content for so much.
T: Heres a funny example of this phonon <3
[read heart shape] is an Internet term
<3
S:It used to take so long for a word to be
JUDGED worthy of a dictionary but those rules
have loosened quite a bit with wikis, etc.
T: It means i love
S:Did not know that

T: Last year was rejected from being included


as part of the English language and cannot be considered a word officially but here is the funny part
there are no letters in this word so how could
it even end up on the considered list?
S:I am thinking about hieroglyphics
T: I think we might be headed back in that
direction the pendulum is swinging back.
S:What a cool insight
T: Well most things in this world are cyclical
right? Almost makes sense:)
S:Yes they seem to be -- maybe in our lifetime
well be reading signifiers that are not letter words
but convey as much or more meaning and culture
T: What do you mean maybe? Teens communicate with <3
S:Ok definitely
T: Its in our lap. My child will not be talking
English, but tech-english
[His son was born three days later]
Given that this section is about assumptions, let
me share mine. I assume that much of the social
knowledge on the Internet is based on masses of
information and self-expression from masses of
people coalescing. I had hardly considered how
masses of people are creating, not just content but
new dictionary worthy language nouns, verbs,
and perhaps one day, symbols. This led me to
wonder about what my 5 year old niece understands about learning. Borrowing Sals interview
questions at the beginning of this chapter, I did
my own investigation.
Q. Whats an example of what your teachers
teach you?
A. They teach the pink tower. They teach us the
listening lesson. They teach us all kinds of
lessons and some times and plusses.
Q. Do you learn things from other people than
your teachers?
A. Like my mom or my dad? They teach me
how to read. How to take turns. They teach
me how to rollerblade.
Q. Do you teach other kids?

51

Challenging our Assumptions

A. Yeah. Um -- I teach other kids how to cook.


I teach other kids how to read. I teach other
kids how to take turns. I teach other kids
how to do monkey bars.
Q. Do you know about the Internet? What do
you like about it?
A. Yes. It has pictures about Halloween and all
that and it teaches you how to carve online.
It teaches you how to make cupcakes and
pasta.
Q. Do you know about Facebook?
A. Facebook is where you actually have these
words on the computer on the Internet and
friends can be mean on the Internet sometimes because the ones you really like may
be really mad and put the ones you love on
the computer. Like somebody really likes
John [Relates to something she observed
with her older sister Camden]
Q. Do you like to learn things from the other
kids?
A. Yes. Like doing um like how to yo-yo.
Q. How can I learn things, because I dont go
to school anymore?
A. If you read you can learn the things all
around the world.
Suffice it to say that I learned much from this
5 year old about knowing what we know. She
is learning interpersonal skills (listening and
taking turns) and physical skills (monkey bars,
rollerblading, and yo-yo) from her interaction
with people. But she is also discovering how-to
knowledge (how to cook, how to carve) from
Internet demonstrations. She believes that she is
teaching other kids what she knows. And suggested
to me I can learn through reading the things all
around the world.
It was striking that a 5 year old understood
the social networking site Facebook to be a place
where strong feelings such anger and love could
be expressed. I became curious about her sisters
experience and asked Camden directly:

52

Q. Do you know about the Internet? What do


you like about it?
A. Yah. Its easy to use. I like it because you to
go Facebook and Google and stuff. Its kind
of like the iPhone. Its easy to use. You know
whats really funny -- I am on Facebook now
and people are texting me and I am trying
to talk to you. [We were on the telephone.]
Q. What do you like about Facebook?
A. You can post what youre thinking and see
what other people are thinking through their
posts. And you chat with other people.
Turning from what two children know about
knowing to what researchers explain about
knowing, we move into the territory of collective
intelligence. Knowledge, once in the domain of
philosophers, was found at a premium in the hands
of experts in the 20th century. But this hierarchical
structure of creating knowledge toppled with social
media. David Snowden (2002) reminds us that
knowledge cannot be constricted; it can only be
volunteered. But can knowledge be captured? The
assumption exists that there is social knowledge
somewhere within interaction of social media.
How does this become collective intelligence?
Knowledge capture is the focus of numerous
global professionals. Some explore Weblogs as
a source for extracting general world knowledge
(Gordon, J., Van Durme, B.; Schubert, L., 2009).
Others design methods for extracting commonsense knowledge (Hakki, C., Cankaya, H. C., Moldovan, D., 2009); methods for mining emotional
content of dream diaries (Frantova, E; Bergler,
S., 2009), or for community detection techniques
leveraging collective intelligence (Papadopoulos,
S., Kompatsiaris. Y., Vakali, A., 2009).
In an area of particular interest, the question is:
How can we capture social knowledge created
through medical research, clinical trials, doctors, and patients impacts people with serious or
life-threatening illness? Is there some collective
repository of emergent wisdom that may save a
life? We see self-organizing support groups com-

Challenging our Assumptions

ing together to dialog about side effects, medical


conditions, resources, and of course to provide
hope and support. Medical specialists share knowledge across global teams and within specialized
social networking sites. How do we locate truth,
assumptions, and reality in these conversations?
Medical and mental health care information
is the number one search on the internet. While
there are opportunities to share information leading to greater benefit to people, pharmaceutical
businesses tend to resist the use of social media.
There are many forces at work.
The order of complexity that arises out of the
tasks involved in creating and cultivating safe
and engaging environments for patients, doctors,
pharmacists, employees and all other publics
grows with every added layer of interaction.
(Baumann, 2010)
One of those critical layers includes economic
impact. Phil Baumann (2010) suggests that life
science businesses reconsider the nature of profit in
a fresh way where where social currencies emerge
as substantive elements in the Capital System at
large. It strikes me that social knowledge through
interaction is one aspect of 21st century wealth
which can no longer be defined in 20th century
financial terms. If life sciences businesses continue
to avoid social media, albeit a complex endeavor,
we may be suffocating social knowledge where
it counts the most, saving life.
Most psychologists do not become exposed to
the field of knowledge management. Without a
conscious effort, its possible to miss the field all
together. Several years ago, I became uneasy about
the silos across many disciplines that I decided
to see what was going on outside of my field. I
had some inspired training by David Snowden
who exposed me to complexity, narrative, and
pattern recognition. Soon I met new colleagues
(David L. Hawthorne, Patti Anklam, Mary Lee
Kennedy, and JC Spender) all quite verbal about
knowledge management. But it was David Gur-

teen in particular who gave me the opportunity


to become the Regional Director of the Gurteen
Knowledge Community in New York City. It has
been in that capacity that I have seen the true
power of face-to-face open conversations about
trust, transparency, assumptions, reality, social
media, organizations and more.
In my work as a psychologist, I am often struck
by how assumptions shape the way we see our self
and the world. To be confronted by assumptions
that alleviate our discomfort is perhaps the work
of a best friend, psychotherapist, or organizational
consultant. After all, your pain is the breaking
of the shell that encloses your understanding
(Gibran, 1923, p. 52).

REALITY
The issue of real and true knowledge is addressed
by Loretta as she considers creators and consumers of social intelligence.
The headline was alluring, Statisticians reject
global cooling: it all depends on the meaning
of decrease, trend, and virtually assure.
Among the topics that overwhelm, confound, and
irritate me, global warming is close to the top of
the list so I browsed to see what the author had
to offer. The article was a posting by Andrew Gelman, a professor of statistics and political science
and director of the Applied Statistics Center at
Columbia University. His thoughts on the apparent shift in opinions of two major scientists
may make you wonder, What is the truth about
global warming? Who can I believe? Is any of the
information in online articles, blogs, wikis, and
social sites factual?
The answer to this question lies in several
domains: cognitive science, behavioral science,
and the emerging technologies for pushing and
pulling information. The dialogue of these three
authors traces these domains as certainty is a
complex issue and the limitations of prior frames
of reference are being explored.

53

Challenging our Assumptions

By 2005, the explosion of user-created media


content on the Web unleashed a new media universe (social media). This phenomenon was not
just a scaled up version of 20th century media
culture. We had moved from media production
by the few in a Web 1.0 paradigm to social media
in a Web 2.0 world. In this new world, we extend
beyond the boundaries where content was once
published by a small number of professional
writers and producers. It now placed an increasing number of users in a larger space in which
communicating involved accessing, co-authoring,
and distributing content produced by other nonprofessional users (Manovich, 2009). Although
we consider this shift paradigmatic, statistics
show that only a few still produce for the many.
These trends do not mean that every user has
become a producer or that every user consumes
mostly amateur material. According to 2007
data, only between 0.5 percent and 1.5 percent
of users of the most popular social media sites
(Flickr, YouTube, Wikipedia) contributed their
own content. Others remained consumers of the
content produced by this 0.51.5 percent (Manovich, 2009, p. 319-320).
How do we make sense of this shift in content
production and dissemination, particularly in terms
of social knowledge and knowing what we know?
How do we locate social knowledge among all this
communication? What is knowledge and what is
simply social noise? It seems to us that originality of thought is blurred and social construction
honored in this new world.
The quest for real knowledge is at the heart
of social media and computing. Defining what is
real in an environment of socially constructed
knowledge is a primary challenge. Lets start
with the limitations of schema and mental models
that constrain individuals and their online and
in-person collaborations.
Cognitive psychologists, psycholinguists, and
knowledge management professional speak of
schema (or schemata) to explain comprehension and classification of information. Basically,

54

schema theory states that all knowledge is organized into units. Within these units of knowledge,
or schemata, is stored information.A schema, then,
is a generalized description or a conceptual system
for understanding how knowledge is represented
and how it is used. According to this theory,
schemata represent knowledge about concepts:
objects and the relationships they have with other
objects, situations, events, sequences of events,
actions, and sequences of actions.
To see how it works, think about your computer as an example. Within that schema you most
likely have knowledge about computers in general
(screen, keyboard, hard drive, software) and probably have information about specific computers,
such as types (desktops, laptops, mainframe) or
brands (Dell, HP, Apple). You may also think of
computers within the greater context of information storage and sharing equipment. That means
computers can be an archive of information stored
in various formats, and they can make information available to other computers and people by
way of networks. Depending upon your personal
experience, the knowledge of a computer as a
form of personal technology (used for homework
or as a means to interact with friends) or as work
technology (that supports projects, file sharing and
business communication) is part of your schema.
And so it goes with the development of a schema.
Each new experience incorporates more information into ones schema. This process affects both
the givers and receivers of information.
Mental models are shared notions. The idea
of the mental model as a small-scale model
of reality can be traced to the work of Kenneth
Craik (1943) who stated that mental models can
be constructed from perception, imagination, or
from the comprehension of the discourse. In the
world of social media, discrete pieces of information are coalesced and reshaped by the players. The
ways in which concepts are mutually understood
is foundational to their being categorized as truth,
fiction, desire, malice, etc. Social constructionism comes from a belief that there is no absolute,

Challenging our Assumptions

objective reality. From that follows the notion that


when people and groups interact in a social system,
they will develop concepts or mental models of
each others actions. After a while these concepts
become built into their roles, and how they relate to
each other. The culture of their mental models and
relationships sets the stage for how they become
accustomed to seeing and believing what is real.
With those frameworks in mind (schema,
mental models, and social constructionism), we
can tackle the question of reality.
Realism is the doctrine that an external world
exists independently of our representations of it.
Representations include perceptions, thoughts,
language, beliefs and desires, as well as artefacts such as pictures and maps, and so include
all the ways in which we could or do know and
experience the world and ourselves. Relativism
repudiates this doctrine, arguing that since any
such external world is inaccessible to us in both
principle and practice, it need not be postulated
or considered. (Cromby & Nightingale, 1999, p. 6)
The inherent desire to share information on
behalf of creating collective knowledge is mediated by behaviors such as truth-telling, deception,
and politicizing. Beyond those social behaviors,
new mediators of reality have emerged from
strictly technological properties of social media.
The technical prowess and presence of opinion
creators makes their information more readily
available as search engines move contributions
to more prominent positions based on accessibility, rather than their reliability. This phenomenon
causes information to be noticed, disseminated via
links, and replicated in whole or part in other sites
or formats. The result is an increasing quantity
of information which lacks quality control for
its value or capacity to broaden and build the
knowledge base.
Suzanne adds another layer of thinking to the
question of reality.

Theres not much to say about reality. Okay


maybe there is. If I want to make sense of what
this chapter is about, I might ask: what does
interacting with social media mean to people?
Even though it is a shared experience, it holds
radically different meanings (reality?) for each
person. Phenomenological research (Willis, 2001)
might surface some of those meanings. It might go
beyond interpretations of the reality to a description or bracketing of the things themselves. We
would have the essence -- although fleeting -- of
what we call social media and how we use it to
know what we know.
A group of educators decided to study learning
within a virtual community of practice (CoPs) using collective intelligence tools. They examined
their own reality -- a spiraling process to achieve
a shared understanding of learning theories that
influence learning in social networking environments (Gunawardena, C. N., Hermans, M. B.,
Sanchez, D., Richmond, C., Bohley, M., Tuttle,
R., 2009, p.15).
They report:
Our wikis history function facilitated socially
mediated metacognition by enabling us to reflect
on our development process as a group, as we
critiqued each version of the paper edited by group
members. We were able to generate reflective
feedback through blogs and the comments function
of the wiki. The wiki and the blogs captured the
interactive nature of our groups metacognitive
monitoring and regulation. Our mutual reflection
on our group learning and development process,
Web 2.0 tool use, and the worthiness of our approaches to achieving the group goal facilitated
socially mediated metacognition. (Gunawardena,
C. N., Hermans, M. B., Sanchez, D., Richmond,
C., Bohley, M., Tuttle, R., 2009, p. 15)
Knowledge creation and reflection share a symbiotic relationship. We view the account of their
learning experience as a strong example of how
social media tools can contribute to understanding

55

Challenging our Assumptions

how we know what we know. It is reminiscent


of Nonaka and Takeuchis dynamic model of
knowledge management, view[ing] knowledge as
activity rather than object and focus on knowledge
creation, collaboration and practice (Chatti, M.
A., Klamma, R., Jarke, M. & Naeve, A., 2007).
It also brings to mind David Gurteens (1998)
paradigm busting question: what is the relationship of our knowledge to reality?
I implied earlier that trust, assumption, and
reality were part of my socialization as a scientistpractitioner (that is, psychologist). Trust being
requisite to change and assumptions being cognitive biases that shape our sense of reality. How
does one speak of reality? I am partial to a socially
constructed view of it -- a la Jerome Bruner (1990)
& Kenneth Gergen (1991). We tend to privilege
our sense of what is real and omit what does not
fit our mental schema. How does one speak of
reality in a way that is not abstract but instead
phenomenological? I guess we speak our experience of reality -- writing this chapter with two
trusted and respected colleagues has been real.
Particularly rewarding is the idea that this is not
an ending but a beginning. My colleagues came
up with the idea of a living chapter perhaps paying homage to post modernism. In other words,
our conversations continue and you can become
part of it. Reality. Really.
For Sal reality is a beginning and not a conclusion.
When the philosopher Martin Heidegger
(1926) said: reality, not the real is dependent
upon care, he was in part referencing the German words, sorg or, besorgen, which can mean
taking care with the affairs of our lives. What is
real we do not change. Reality is something we
share and can affect.
We do not want to arrive at a conclusion for our
contribution to this book. Rather, it is our intention
to provide a beginning and offer readers the ability
to carry this conversation forward. Looking into
the future depends on what we talk about now.

56

A long time ago, when I was working on a


series of videos to look into the future of communication, I was mentored about the democratization of technology. In fact, I was taken to task to
make certain that I did not engage anyone in the
creation of these videos who did not understand
the reality and importance of such probing into
where we were going. It was pointed out to me,
that legislators in our world needed to view serious perspectives on where technology and social
knowledge were headed. That, in fact, they may
have little insight when creating regulatory laws.
They needed to question their own assumptions
to truly understand how technology affects the
most fundamental needs of our lives.
It was 1990 when I worked on these films. At
that time, it was very difficult for such technical
references to appear plausible on screen. Problems occurred such as showing a future computer
screen on film, which was almost impossible
without waving lines and looking like an old science fiction movie. There was one guy who had
developed a technology to overcome this. He was
jurisdictional, a control type, and really annoying.
We were focusing on future problem solving (in
1990 and projecting beyond 2010) on issues such
as surgeons confronting sudden and new problems
while operating. It is fascinating to look back and
see these films, forecasting doctors using video
casting or IM to find expertise during a critical
moment in a surgery. Medical professionals,
speeding up diagnosis based on accurate history
through electronic medical records, as opposed to
taking time to ask the same questions of patients
over and over again.
Getting this cinematic challenge accomplished
required the expertise of this one very difficult
person who could actually make the picture look
plausible. The irony about describing the future
of collaboration and needing the skill of someone
who had no interest in collaborating was a working reality that was very frustrating.

Challenging our Assumptions

Social Knowledge Sharing Is a


Way of Constantly Preparing
Now, we have many ways to collaborate and
alternatives to move beyond such single control
from one person or entity as I experienced in
making the future view films. Yet, are we truly
ready for the help that technology represents?
Terms such as continuous improvement sound
businesslike but they can also sound exhausting
unless we understand that technology alone does
not accomplish very much.
One major hospital in London just removed all
their investment in an electronic medical system.
I have personally apologized for the decision to
implement the system before we were really clear
about what we were going to receiveI had been
led to believe it would all work. - Andrew Way,
the chief executive of the Royal Free Hospital,
London, U.K.
What they did not prepare for was the social
interaction and cultural change needed to actually make it work. Unfortunately, the guy who
controlled the technology to make the future
films look credible also controlled the schedule,
budget, and the overall impression of the work.
Thats reality not unlike the jurisdictional behaviors and realities we experience in business, art,
education, and science.

CONCLUSION
We Invite You to Join Our
Conversation: Here are Three
Simple Questions to Begin
We commit to this conversation and trust that
many of you will as well. Reality is dependent
on what we care about.

1. How do you define the term social


knowledge?
2. Do you have a story or know of one where
you had to question the assumptions of what
you were hearing or reading?
3. What is it you see developing for us through
social knowledge sharing thats really part
of our everyday lives?
Visit www.conversationsforliving.com to
engage in our conversation.

REFERENCES
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threatened languages. New York: First Mariner
Books.
Anderson, N. (2009, October 11). 100 years of
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own words. Retrieved December 1, 2009, from
Arstechnica website: http://arstechnica.com/techpolicy/news/2009/10/100-years-of-big-contentfearing-technologyin-its-own-words.ars
Baumann, P. (2010, March 28). Do pharmaceutical
companies have social media anxiety disorder?
Retrieved April 9, 2010, from Better Health:
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Berry, C. (2008). Word to Play: A textual handbook
for actors and directors. London: Oberon Books.
Brown, J. S., & Duguid, P. (2000). The social life of
information. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.
Bruner, J. (1990). Acts of meaning. Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press.
Chatti, M. A., Klamma, R., Jarke, M., & Naeve, A.
(2007). The Web 2.0 Driven SECI Model Based
Learning Process. In. Proceedings of ICALT,
2007, 780782.

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Challenging our Assumptions

Craik, K. (1943). The nature of explanation.


London: Cambridge University Press.
Douma, C. (2006, October 1). What Is Radical
Trust? Retrieved from November 1, 2009, from
Radical Trust website: http://www.radicaltrust.
ca/about/
Eyesight. (2009). Wikipedia. Retrieved (2010,
April 18) from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Eyesight
Frantova, E., & Bergler, S. (2009, September 1).
Automatic emotion annotation of dream diaries. In
Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference
on Knowledge. Proceedings of K Cap Workshop:
Analyzing Social Media to Represent Collective
Knowledge.
Fuller, S. (1987). On regulating what is known:
A way to social epistemology. Synthese, 73(1),
145183. doi:10.1007/BF00485445
Gardner, H. (2005). Multiple Lenses on the Mind.
Paper presented at the ExpoGestion Conference,
Bogota Colombia, May 25, 2005.
Garelli, S. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.
imd.ch/
Gergen, K. J. (1991). The saturated self: Dilemmas of identity in contemporary life. New York:
Basic Books.
Gibran, K. (1923). The prophet. New York: Alfred
A. Knopf.
Goldman, A. I. (1986). The Cognitive and Social
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Gordon, J., Van Durme, B., & Schubert, L. (2009).
Weblogs as a source for extracting general world
knowledge. International Conference on Knowledge Capture archive. In Proceedings of the Fifth
International Conference on Knowledge. Poster
session (pp. 185-186).

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Gunawardena, C. N., Hermans, M. B., Sanchez,


D., Richmond, C., Bohley, M., & Tuttle, R. (2009).
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doi:10.1080/09523980802588626
Gurteen, D. (1998). Knowledge, creativity, and
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about/MaloneLaunchRemarks.html
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Papadopoulos, S., Kompatsiaris, Y., & Vakali,
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Pea-Lpez, I. (2009). Digital Competences (VI).


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ADDITIONAL READING
Donath, J. (2008). Signals in social supernets. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13,
231251. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00394.x
Fushe, J. A. (2009). The meaning structure of social networks. Sociological Theory, 27(1), 5173.
doi:10.1111/j.1467-9558.2009.00338.x
Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robison,
A. J., & Weigel, M. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education
for the 21st century. Chicago, IL: The MacArthur
Foundation.

Kock, N. (2005). What is e-collaboration? International Journal of e-Collaboration, 1(1), ivii.


McAfee, A. P. (2006). Enterprise 2.0: The dawn of
emergent collaboration. MIT Sloan Management
Review, 47(3), 2128.
Mergel, I., & Lazer, D. (2008). Lending a helping
hand: Voluntary engagement in knowledge sharing.
International Journal of Learning and Change,
3(1), 522. doi:10.1504/IJLC.2008.018865
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Watson, K., & Harper, C. (2008). Supporting
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Collaboration (Research Bulletin, Issue 3). Boulder, CO: Educause Center for Applied Research.
Available from www.educause.edu/ecar

KEY TERMS AND DEFINITIONS


Asynchronous Communication: Text messages delivered via the Web that are independent of
time or place, allowing them to be received, read
and replied to at the convenience of the reader.
Some typical asynchronous communication tools
are email lists, chat boards, blogs/micro-blogs,
wikis and forums.
Blogs: Websites, generally designed in journal format, with most recent items at the top of
a page, and written in a conversational, personal
style, giving the author an authentic voice online.
The items of content, such as text, photos, video,
audio, have URLs plus other ways of identifying
them by keywords - known as tags. Blogs can offer readers the opportunity to comment on, and
link to items.
Collective Intelligence: The capacity of a
community of people to evolve toward higher

59

Challenging our Assumptions

order complex thinking, problem-solving and


integration as the result of collaboration and
innovation. Tom Atlee and George Pr have
emphasized significance of human interaction as
core to this process.
Community of Practice (CoP): A group of
people who have an interest in, and vocational
or avocational involvement in, a field, and who
share experiences and insights within the group,
learn from one another, and grow personally and
professionally from the relationship.
Creative Commons: Options which authors
use to publish their work, allowing various permissions to users to copy, distribute, display and/
or perform their copyrighted work by designating
the level of license associated with their intellectual or creative property (available at http://
creativecommons.org/about/licenses/).
Gangs 2.0: KTLA News. 12:44 PM PST,
November 19, 2009, The Emerging Threat of
Cyberthugs
Integrated Supply Chain of Trust: Undertanding accountability as a shared responsibility.

60

Open Source Technology: This approach


to the development and sharing of technology
provides access to the source code of software
allowing developers outside the originating organization to alter and share the original application.
In many instances, Open Source Technology is
available as Freeware that is available at no cost
to download from the Internet.
Social Media: The Web-based and mobile
technologies that are designed for the real-time
and asynchronous social interaction and creation
of user-creations of content, such as sharing of
digital content, communication and collaboration,
by identified users as members of communities.
Web 2.0: A term (attributed to Tim OReilly,
2004) that refers to online applications that allow interactive design of the graphical interface,
information sharing, and collaboration on the
World Wide Web. Examples of these technologies
include Web-based communities, hosted services,
Web applications, social-networking sites, podcast
and video-sharing sites, wikis, blogs, mashups
and folksonomies.

61

Chapter 4

Social Knowledge Case Study:


Innovation Linked to the Collaborative
Socialization of Knowledge
Cindy Gordon
Helix Commerce International Inc., Canada

ABSTRACT
The premise of this chapter is that Innovation Growth is tightly tied to the collaborative process of socializing knowledge. Case examples from leading companies leading the way in socializing knowledge
leading practices will be profiled. These companies will be a mix of new stories from a mix of both profit
and not for profit organizations, in a mix of industries. The leaders of these organizations recognize that
the socialization process of knowledge is core key to innovation growth. This chapter tells the story of
change agents that are helping to move from vision to execution successfully. You will hear of experiences where the full enablement of their programs are not fully funded, or necessarily aligned across all
levels of management where the generational gaps between understanding community and value network
networks vs those based on linear one way flow models continue to conflict with one another; The
case studies all started off with a small project well scoped and defined, and organically evolved vs a
big bang approach. Each of these cases is rooted in a clear business need either for employee engagement or customer engagement needs.

INTRODUCTION
Increasingly executives realize that innovation is
rooted in the health of their corporate culture, and
is evidenced in their business practices, cultural
behaviors, and norms which either foster open

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-203-1.ch004

collaboration and knowledge sharing or stifle


these trust building and risk taking competencies.
Never before has collaboration and innovation
been so important to an organizations survival.
As the war for talent intensifies, Generation X and
Ys will become increasingly sought after talent
pools. They have more choices for employment
than any other generation in the past due to the
rapidly retiring Baby Boomers. They will join

Copyright 2011, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.

Social Knowledge Case Study

organizations that enable them to communicate


and interact using social mediated and collaborative technologies to perform their job functions.
They will live by the law of two feet as their
loyalty mantra in an organization is either let me
be empowered to collaborate using next generation collaboration solutions or I will leave to an
organization that has these investments in place.
The millennials loyalty is based on being part of a
cohesive and community generating culture that
is stimulating and fun to work in provides a rich
interactive learning environment, and balances
business and social responsibilities.
What we know from our Helix Commerce
International Inc. (www.helixcommerce.com)
research is that for organizations to successfully
compete in the new Knowledge Economy that
ease of access to collaborative social mediated
technologies that improve knowledge worker
productivity will be a key success factor to attract,
develop and retain talent.
Currently, the majority of Fortune 500 organizations are just starting to recognize the importance
of applying Web 2.0 and collaborative solutions
to their business processes. Web 2.0 technologies
such as: blogs, micro blogs, podcasting, social
mediated technologies, virtual worlds and wikis
are now being rapidly applied in innovative ways
to improve business practices.

DEFINING COLLABORATION
Collaboration Defined

occurs when two or more people interact and


exchange knowledge in the pursuit of a shared
collective goal.
A recent IBM international survey of 765 CEOS
confirmed that practically all CEOs will say they
are for collaboration and for radically shaking up
their business models to increase their innovation
speed. Yet, when asked how their organizations
are accomplishing collaboration for the purpose
of innovation, they rank their ability to collaborate
effectively in emerging markets at 73%, global
markets at 51%, and in mature markets only 47%.
Collaboration requires an aligned business
strategy where knowledge assets are valued to
increase innovation and achieve competitive
advantage. It also requires an understanding that
cultural behavior, work process and appropriate
technology capabilities need to be aligned to
evolve an organizational cultures collaboration
values and competencies. Developing a healthy
and effective collaboration capability in an organization requires a number of success factors:

In the long history of humankind (and animal


kind) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.
Charles Darwin
Collaboration refers to the business process of
bringing together a group of people to work
together or the act of working jointly. It usually

62

Culture - A culture that encourages authenticity, teamwork, cooperation, trustmaking, openness, transparency, networking, social responsibility and risk-taking
will have healthier collaboration execution
capabilities. It is well proven that organizations are able to innovate more successfully to sustain competitive advantage with
collaborative core values.
Process Organizations that embed collaborative business models and trust sensemaking approaches into core business processes and practices increase knowledge
worker productivity and improve organizational intelligence. This dynamic and iterative learning process design provides more
learning loops for knowledge exchange,
and more rapid continuous improvement
opportunities.
Organization Companies that invest in
collaboration and knowledge worker in-

Social Knowledge Case Study

novation and productivity strategies that


also have an overall organizational competency roadmap to integrate collaborative
capabilities to improve their innovation
and growth capabilities. Key competencies
include Talent Management Life Cycles
(Attract, Develop, and Retain) and new
Employee Engagement Practices for more
open and double loop learning and communication strategies.
Technology The last ten years collaborative technology capabilities have rapidly
evolved from simple email to rich social
and multi-media toolkits delivered by alternative access devices (web, mobile, etc).

What is unfolding is a fundamental business


and economic shift where the power is shifting
to the external markets vs. the internal markets
of firms. This is what we refer to as collaboration
commerce or c-commerce which is a combination
of disruptive and collaboration business models
that integrate new mind sets, values, and technologies to achieve higher levels of collaboration, and
innovation among individuals, firms and nations.
This phenomenon is often referred to as Collective Intelligence, or Crowd Sourcing, where
the wisdom comes from the diverse web based
crowds that value rich social mediated conversation. It is this rich interactive communication
dynamic that accelerates the increased desire and
willingness of stakeholders to contribute their
intelligence more freely which allows others to
have access to additional know-how.
The knowledge exchange rates are now at ones
fingertips on the world-wide web as knowledge is
increasingly outside the firm vs. inside the firm.
Most knowledge is now obsolete world-wide in
the majority of industries in less than a year further
driving the reality to life-long learning approaches
in developing a nations productivity.

COLLABORATION TECHNOLOGIES
AND LINKAGES TO WEB 2.0
Simply defined, Web 2.0 is a term given to a collection of new digital platforms based on social
computing which is used for generating, sharing and refining information. There has been a
continual evolution of Web solutions since the
early Web 1.0 solutions were introduced from
companies like AOL, eBay, and Yahoo.
The next generation of social computing solutions now dubbed Web 2.0 or often referred to as
social computing refers to the use of Social Software, a growing trend in Information Technology
(IT) usage of tools that support social and community interaction. Web 2.0 represents the third
wave of collaboration that enables people to meet,
connect or collaborate through computer-mediated
communication and to form online communities.
Often the term Enterprise 2.0 is used in relationship to Web 2.0 fundamentally Enterprise 2.0
is the application of these tools to companies or
between companies. Frequently discussed capabilities of innovative and collaborative Web 2.0
platforms include:

The ability to increase the funnel of new


service ideas through collaboration internally (among employees) and externally
(with strategic partners, software developers and subscribers);
The organization of ideas with a documented process for requirements capture
and portfolio management;
A reduction in the cost of innovation by
providing a low-friction, cost-effective environment for collaboration;
An opportunity to validate market assumptions prior to the significant investments
required for commercial launch;
Price experimentation to determine customer willingness to pay for new services;
and

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Social Knowledge Case Study

An environment for an iterative approach


to services innovation start with an idea,
test its feasibility with customers, launch
a market trial, capture customer feedback,
implement enhancements, and launch
again until confidence in commercial success is high

Table 1 provides a summary of Collaboration


Web 2.0 Solutions and a perspective on their
evolution in business. To attract Generation X
and Ys and to take advantage of lower cost enterprise Software as a Service solution platforms
developed on Web 2.0, organizations will need
to develop an intensified collaboration strategy
and execution model for competitive advantage.

WEB 2.0: COLLABORATION CASES


This section will provide a number of cases demonstrating innovative approaches using diverse
collaboration technologies using different solutions and platforms. Web 2.0 areas discussed in

Table 1. Collaboration Web 2.0 growth trends


Wave 1

Wave 2

Wave 3

E-Mail

Virtual WorkSpaces

Blogs

Calendar

Instant Messaging

Wikis

Group Scheduling

Enterprise Portals

RSS Feeds

Discussion Forums

Presence

Social Networks

Directories (Taxonomies)

Web -Conferencing

Tagging

GroupWare

Expertise Automation

Social Bookmarking

Personal Websites

Personal Profiles

Composite Applications

Mash-Ups
Podcasting
Virtual Metaverses
Collaboration
Stories

64

this section will include: blogs, podcasting, social


media technologies, wikis, and virtual worlds.
Each category will be briefly defined, and then
followed by a short caselet.

Blog Defined
A blog is journal-style website that expresses an
individuals view. It takes no technical skill to run
a blog the user just fills in a web form, selects
categories and posts. It provides a transparent
searchable archive of the bloggers content and
links to others contents within a meaningful
context.

Blog Cases

General Motors (www.gmblogs.com)


GMblogs.com is general Motors home
for corporate blogs. GM has taken an aggregation approach to bringing all their
corporate blogs into a centralized blogging
presence to ensure branding and unified
blogging to the external market is branded effectively. As of fall 2008, they have
four major blogging sites: Fast Lane Blog
which blogs about cars and trucks and discusses all aspects of Ford Vehicles and encourages community interaction. They also
have a General blog called FYIgmblogs.
com which is a blog that centralizes GM
news, information and opinions across all
their global business units. It is written by
GM employees and they are encouraged to
blog. The third is focused on a community
blog for Cadillac drivers to interact with
customers real time and obtain feedback
to help evolve products and services of
Cadillac customers. The more recent blog
is GM Tuners Source website which provides news updates, picture galleries from
racing and drifting events captured from
around the country. It includes driver profiles, tuner accessories and building books.

Social Knowledge Case Study

IBM -IBM has taken a strong leadership


position in demonstrating the value and
possibilities of adopting social media technologies. IBM Blogs Central gives every
IBM employee a platform to publish and
discuss his or her ideas openly and to collect feedback. The platform hosts more
than 12,000 individual blogs and 1,000
group blogs. BlogCentral featured 105,000
entries with 106,000 comments and over
25,000 distinct tags as of early 2009.
ING Direct The Canadian division of
ING Direct has a next generational CEO,
Peter Aceto that is active micro-blogger
and uses Twitter daily mixing both business news and professional dialogue. With
over 3,000 followers, Peters tweets share
the day in the life of a committed CEO
leader to business, his family and his community. He is visible 7x24 whether it is
letting us know he is in a board meeting
or at a birthday party for his daughter. In
a recent discussion with Peter, he indicated he is not always sure about mixing
business and personal life tweets on his
daily activities. However, we believe he is
simply a generation ahead of most of the
CEOs in the retail banking industry as he
understands not only the psyche of openness and transparency, he has incredible
passion for the community and making the
world a better and simpler place to develop in. Finding open learning leaders like
Peter are very difficult to find in life; with
his legal degree underpinnings, this young
CEO has much to teach the world about
the value of social mediated conversations.
He is tapped into the community and every
day sees or hears something that helps ING
Direct Canada stay connected, and offers a
unique branded experience that sets them
apart from traditional tier one NA banks.
Oracle Oracle is in the business of helping clients manage business information

securely and effectively and are using Web


2.0 solutions to help them deliver on their
mission. Oracle bloggers use their platforms to communicate both internally and
externally about the strategic direction and
product development. The companys legal team does occasional spot checks on
the external blogs run by senior executives.
Oracle uses a simple policy for blogging
and using social media tools in general
which is: do not say anything you would
not want to be attributed to you, and dont
give out secrets or confidential information. Oracles legal confidentiality policies
and employee handbook provide useful
guidelines. Periodically legal review blogs
entries more as a guidance function as
Oracles assumption is that people would
not try to hurt the company explicitly, although they might do it by mistake.
MTS Allstream MTS Allstream is in the
business of staying on the cutting edge of
new communication technologies. Senior
Manager of Social Media Marketing,
Craig Brown, has been a key driving force
at MTS leveraging blogs and social mediated ways of working. The company uses
the Microsoft SharePoint platform to support open discussion through blogs on its
intranet, and senior executives across the
organization are actively leveraging blogs
as effective communication channels.
Their CEO of the MTS Enterprise business
unit, Dean Prevost is a role model leader of
social media and uses these tools to communicate more openly with employees and
encourages his leadership team to interact
more openly and socialize more transparently with employees at all levels. Craig
Brown the Web 2.0 architect and change
agent at MTS Allstream has made role
model progress at MTS by being persistent with the need to evolve the organizations culture and take advantage of social

65

Social Knowledge Case Study

approaches. Most recently, their employee


engagement scores have reached 80% employee satisfaction ratings, and a great deal
of this is felt to be linked to their social
media practices of ideation (Innovation using social approaches), discussion forums,
blogs, wikis, etc. Key lessons learned at
MTS include: get the legal issues sorted
out early, start internally and get employees comfortable. Cultivate senior executives to be sponsors and get them involved.
Help executives set up blogs and coach
them one on one to make the transition,
and dont be afraid to experiment.
World Bank (http://psdblog.worldbank.
org) The World Banks private sector
blog gathers together news, resources, and
ideas about the role of private enterprise
in fighting poverty. The objective of the
blog is to provide intelligent community
comment on private sector development
issues in the news, and provide an effective link between the detailed resources of
the World Banks Rapid Response website
and the ever changing world of the blogosphere. The PSD Blog is maintained by
the World Banks Group Rapid Response
Knowledge service, which specializes in
policy advice on business environment reform and privatization policy in developing countries. Rapid Response is a joint
initiative between the World Bank and the
International Finance Corporation (IFC).

There are many other leading companies using


blogging and also micro-blogging practices. A
detailed case study of Molsons Canada is summarized at the end of this chapter. Based on
our research in terms of complexity of multiple
external customer facing websites, and customer
communities linked to diverse brands, they are
world-class, and have been recognized world-wide
for their digital social media innovations.

66

Podcasting Defined
As Wikipedia defines it, A podcast is a digital
media file, or a series of such files, that is distributed over the Internet using syndication feeds for
playback on portable media players and personal
computers.

Podcasting Cases
Outlined below are a number of innovative approaches to using podcasting from leading companies in the financial services market.

Bank of Nova Scotia are using podcasts


in Retail Banking to bring expert perspectives to educate retail consumers on topics
ranging from: Global Economic Reports,
Helping parents to plan for University,
perspectives on Small Business and The
Canadian Economy, Getting the Value from
your Bank Account. BNS also profiles senior BNS executives to discuss perspectives
on retail banking, mortgages, and community. See: http://www.scotiabank.com/cda/
content/0,1608,CID10842_LIDen,00.
Reuter News has a web casting service
that features diverse pod casts to listen
and often interact with experts on topics
ranging from: Entertainment, Finance and
News, Sports, etc.
World Bank has a webcasting service
called B-SPAN. B-SPAN is the web podcasting service of the World Bank Group,
presenting seminars, workshops and conferences on a variety of sustainable development and poverty reduction issues via
streaming video. The World Bank and its
partners play host to numerous seminars,
workshops and conferences where the
worlds leading development experts and
practitioners discuss the latest developments in a range of sectors, including agriculture, sustainable development, finance,

Social Knowledge Case Study

poverty reduction, health, education, governance, environment, energy, infrastructure, rural and urban development, and
more. B-SPAN webcasts are free to view.
World Bank staff, academics, students,
researchers, journalists, NGO representatives, and members of the public-at-large
can virtually attend events from anywhere in the world where the Internet is
accessible. By bringing World Bank events
to the computer screen, B-SPAN is an invaluable podcasting tool for the World
Banks missions of promoting transparency and sharing knowledge. (See: http://
info.worldbank.org/etools/BSPAN/index.
asp)

Social Mediated
Technologies Defined
Social Mediated Technologies epitomize Web
2.0 innovations as they focus on easily integrating multiple communication mediums, words,
pictures, podcasts, videos, IM, blogs all come to
create new conversations and enable community
building opportunities. The most popular solutions
include: Facebook (social communities), Flickr
(photo sharing) MySpace (social communities)
Second Life (Virtual worlds) and YouTube (video
/community sharing).

Social Media Technology Cases


IBM uses a number of innovative approaches to using social networking tools.


The BlueIQ Ambassadors program encourages IBM employees to help each
other use social software more effectively. Social Software Jumpstart consulting
helps client-facing teams take advantage of
social media to improve their productivity
and effectiveness. Employees have access
to IBM BluePages which give individuals
a place to share their expertise and inter-

ests. Cattail File sharing technology also


helps them to eliminate duplication of effort by allowing employees to share presentation slides and other materials as well
as enabling others to subscribe to updates
of existing files. Lotus Quickr supports
team collaboration both inside and outside
the IBM firewall. IBM communities hosts
more than 900 communities, include 300
private companies.
Toronto Dominion Bank - Setting their
sights on social media optimization, TD
Bank launched a Money Lounge solution
on Facebook in August 13, 2007. The initiative was a six month pilot project with
the goal of attaining 10,000 members,
or fans. Within ten days, 3,000 new fans
were generated. Their goal was exceeded
with 11,000 fans added by the end of the
six month preliminary period. Thirty-nine
percent of Facebooks 40 million users are
between the ages of 18-24 years old and
four million of the sites total users are
from Canada. The Money Lounge is directed at students aged 24-35 years, motivated by the expectation that a majority of
this demographic will enter the workforce
and grow their banking needs in the coming years. TD has generated interest in the
Money Lounge with campus bus tours,
word of mouth and viral marketing campaigns, in addition to banner advertisements on Facebook. The Money Lounge
is a collaborative community that fosters
discussion between TD, employees, and
customers about finance and budgeting.
Services in the Money Lounge include
Split It, a calculating tool that helps roommates divide their bills. In the first phase
of development fans of the Money Lounge
had access to coupons from major retailers;
iTunes, Empire Theatres, Best Buy, Roots,
and Zellers. In the beginning of the second
phase TD introduced their environmental

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Social Knowledge Case Study

68

initiative to the web by promising to donate $1 to TD Friends of the Environment


for every Facebook user who referred a
friend. The Money Lounge has been a lesson in learning to adapt to uncontrolled
communication exchanges, a staple of any
social networking site. Sue McVey, Former
Vice President of TD Customer Segments
and Strategy says that they are using the
Money Lounge to learn how to interact
with students in their own environment.
This is about understanding this media
and how were going to interact within it.
Where were really learning is in the dialogueand how often in have to go in and
out. Nobodys got it mapped out. By the
fall of 2009 TD Bank had over 60,000 users registered on its Money Lounge and investments continue to be made.
Circle Lending - Launched in 2001,
CircleLending is a widely regarded as a
trailblazer in Web 2.0 Social Peer Lending
in the financial services. Circle Lending has
effectively designed unique products that
allow individuals to save money and keep
wealth in the family by securing affordable
loans from relatives and friends. Circle
Lending has helped first-time homebuyers,
entrepreneurs, students and other individuals access credit at favorable terms. As of
Summer, 2007, Virgin USA acquired a majority stake in Circle Lending, which was
allowed Virgin USA to launch and white
label new financial service offerings. The
first Canadian company to enter into this
business model foray is Community Lend
after taking two years to achieve regulatory approvals.
Pertuity Direct.com Pertuity Direct is
a social media solution which provides
consumers with the most useful financial information transparent and available
to you, and to provide access to unbiased
financial tools and options. They strive

to make the best deposit and credit card


deals across the country available to you,
ultimately saving you money. They offer
wealth management experience and expertise to help consumers make the best possible financial decisions. They do this with
no strings attached - theres no cross selling; no prequalification; no sales pitches;
no minimum balances; no fees. The model
is an advertizing based model and provides
quality services like financial advisors
in retail banking or wealth management
provide supported by the intelligence and
Wisdom of the Crowds.

Virtual Worlds Defined


A virtual world is a computer based simulated
environment, intended for its users to inhabit
and interact via avatars (simulated people). The
environment is represented in two or three dimensions, and three dimensional virtual worlds
are becoming the popular norm. Gartner predicts
80% of active Internet users will have an avatar
in the virtual world by the end of 2011.

Virtual World Cases


Although in its early days, virtual worlds provide
a 3D visualization experience on the web using
avatars for preferred methods of interacting. The
most visible Virtual World testing these new frontiers is Second Life, which has already attracted
over 300 of the worlds tier one brands like: CNN,
General Motors, IBM, Microsoft, Nike, Nissan,
Vodofone etc. Outlined in this next section is a
summary of the most successful brand experiences
in Second Life, based on Helix Commerce global
research analyzing over 300 SL sites. The two
year comprehensive research report is available
by contacting www.helixvirtualworlds.com. This
section below is extracted from the Helix Research
report (2009). The Research report is available
at http://stores.lulu.com/helixcommerce. The

Social Knowledge Case Study

majority of these virtual world examples are from


leading financial service organizations, primarily
from Asia and Europe.

BCV Switzerland Bank This is the


first Swiss Bank to enter SL. They have
two Sims that are showcasing their products and services. They are also providing virtual land for local businesses to
promote a French Speaking community.
On BCVs island, there is a large, building surrounded by lush digital greenery
with floating lights. The landscape is richly
detailed and can be explored by the curious avatar. The main building consists of
two floors. The first is home to a series of
information boards outlining BCVs products and services. The second floor houses
a selection of representations of works of
art from BCVs collection in Switzerland.
BCV does not actually offer any financial
services in Second Life yet. On the second
Sim, dedicated to the French language,
is a collection of SL stores selling things
from furniture to clothing. There is also a
virtual spa and an area for ones avatar to
meditate.
ING ING initially took the virtual world
seriously with its INGs virtual Holland
project is with international partners, clients and inhabitants of SL. It was designed
as a hot spot for virtual tourists & Business
people from all over the world. It had beautiful Dutch Architecture landscapes, tulips
and has been designed as a special place
to relax and enjoy. ING also opened up a
large part of its renowned art collection
to the public in an outstanding building
on Virtual Holland. ING departed Second
Life virtual world nearly two years ago,
but their initial footprint was ahead of the
industrys vision of what the future of retail
banking could look like in our future. VISA
Europe is asking users for suggestions

as to what Visa should build on its land.


It is also taking advice on what to build
from banks in its network. INGs goal in
Virtual Holland was to seek insights from
customers, partners and inhabitants of the
Virtual Island on the products and services
it should offer. I expect in time it will be
back but likely under its new Retail Caf
brand in developing online communities
connected to real life experiences.
Kraft Foods Kraft Foods is leveraging
Second Life launched and showcased 70
new products as part of its sales pitch to
retailers at the annual industry convention, the Food Marketing Institute Show
in late 2007, and have continued to profile
Phils Supermarket, named for TVs
Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert, food
editor for the Today Show.

Lisa Gibbons, Kraft spokesperson said, This


non-traditional effort illustrates how were changing the way we market our products to build brand
equity and remain relevant to our key customers.
Visitors today can watch cooking videos of specific Kraft products, and participate in community
demonstrations with key chefs, providing another
opportunity to collaborate with customers, and create new community highly immersive experiences.
In summary, these examples illustrate tremendous opportunities for organizations that have
the vision to understand that the Web 2.0 and 3D
virtualization economy is rapidly evolving and
the time to enter is now.

Wiki Defined
What is a wiki? According to wikipedia the
free encyclopedia that anyone can edit (http://
en.wikipedia.org), (a) wiki is a type of website
that allows anyone visiting the site to add, to
remove, or otherwise to edit all content, very
quickly and easily, sometimes without the need
for registration.

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Social Knowledge Case Study

Wiki Cases

70

Bank of America uses the Confluence


wiki to support their investment banking
practices. The ability to store information
in context to weave a narrative through
data sources, attachments, charts, archived
mails, and other data is what makes wikis
a powerful knowledge management tool,
says Michael Ogrinz, Software Architect
at Bank of America, one of the wiki leaders. Traditional document management
software works like a giant filing cabinet
where its hard to tell what information is
important.
British Telecom British Telecom have
been active wiki users for the last year to
improve employee communication and
productivity levels. They currently have
over 300 internal employee wikis. BT have
been using wikis since 2006 and in a variety of applications, ranging from IT support
to new product development and technical
support conversations with customers. The
main benefit of social computing technology BT has experienced in their wiki solutions is the elimination of reliance on one
or two experts to solve problems. Social
computing has many applications across
organizations, and should be used with the
existing communication infrastructure. In
BTs latest program deployment phase, all
BT employees will be using wikis across
the organization www in the next couple
of years.
Citibank Citibank picked up on the
wiki trend in 2004 and formally deployed
Atlassians Confluence in October 2005.
Citibank are typical, as they started from
the need to rapidly deploy internal-customer-facing material. Gone is the long-publishing cycle to check static content before
it goes out: customers or employees are

trusted with the power to directly change


content in real-time.
CommSecure in Australia makes e-business solutions that are installed over much
of the world, with 24 x 7 support. They use
a wiki internally to track the current status
of each installation, as well as to document
procedures for handling alerts, solutions to
new problems, changes in contact information, etc. The wiki is easily updatable and
everyone is encouraged to contribute if
they have new information. If the answers
are in more formal documentation, the
wiki serves as the index to that documentation, which saves people in an emergency
having to wade through several different
sets of documentation provided by third
party organizations trying to find the one
vital piece of information to solve this particular problem.
Family Health International uses wikis
in their not for profit organization fighting
AIDS to bring their research scientists together around the world to work on HIV
research projects, link up sales resources to
share best practices, and support training
program needs.
MTS Allstream uses wikis to support their
marketing and sales internal practices. As
well the CEO for their Enterprise Group
frequently uses wiki like discussion forums to increase employee communication
and engagement practices.
Novell uses wikis to support collaboration
and encourage conversations in a variety
of ways, both within teams and across their
enterprise that operates on a global basis,
and the wiki is just part of work now
MITs Sloan Schools CIO has used a
wiki together with a blog to support strategic planning, reducing circle time and
increasing staff buy-in.
Pixar uses wikis for film production, software development, and internal IT. It be-

Social Knowledge Case Study

gan in IT but spread into the other areas. In


film production, skills and technologies are
so specialized, Pixar has used Confluence
for knowledge sharing and learning.

In summary, Wikis provides a new management


practice to help increase mature markets capability
to innovate more successfully as wikis provide
the space to incubate ideas. Yet, to date, wikis
have largely been a grassroots phenomena. Few
senior executives have used a wiki, or are embracing collaboration patterns at the speed required
for competitive advantage. Those firms that first
embrace the architecture of wiki participation will
be at a distinct advantage.

DETAILED CASE STUDY


MOLSON COORS
Molson Coors Brewing Company (TSX: TPX.B;
NYSE: TAP) is a company that was created by the
merger of two of North Americas largest breweries: Molson of Canada, and Coors of the United
States. According to the Molson Coors website,
Molson Coors Brewing Company is the fifthlargest brewer by volume. As an organizational
culture, Molson Coors has a values driven culture.
Corporate responsibility is deeply rooted in their
heritage, and it is more than just a program; it is a
foundation that drives Molsons business practices.
Therefore, it made sense that Molson Coors
in Canada elected to enter the social media space
through a corporate group blog, focusing on the
community. The blog offered the company the
opportunity to build an online Molson community,
and integrate their two key objectives: To serve
the public through philanthropy and to establish
a channel for telling the Molson story.
The challenge Molson faced in embracing
social media was that it required a fundamental
organizational transformation in communication
with internal and external stakeholders. After

an initial unsuccessful launch in 2007, Molson


Coors Canada re-launched their corporate blog in
February 2008. Molsons overall Web 2.0 communications strategy focuses on the blog and the
community that follows.
All evidence points to Molsons success with
their social media communications efforts. By
May 2009, Molson had a following of 18,000 on
the blog, over 5,200 on Twitter, 70,000 fans on
their Facebook sites, and a database of 1,200,000
subscribers. Through the ongoing experimentation and learning, Molson achieved a level of
sophistication in their use and application of
social media tools and channels. Their success
in executing social media programs illustrates the
companys proficiency in applying the communication and blog best practices. Molson uses social
media monitoring tools to gauge performance,
and measures success in terms of objectives, that
are tracked against results. For Molson, ROI is a
return on influence, not investment.

Culture and Values


The Molson Coors culture is rooted in their
founders values. Both Adolph Coors (1873) and
John Molson (1786) were driven by passion and
innovation and held a deep rooted commitment
towards community, and the mastery of their
craft. The company leverages these values for
competitive differentiation, and building brand
equity. The Molson Coors values define the culture and business practices, and underpin all of
the companys communications.
The Molson Coors culture is one where people
are united through shared values, a passion for
beer, and the strong brewing heritage. The cultural foundation is anchored on the six core values
epitomized by the founders: Integrity, respect,
quality, excelling, creativity, and passion. The
companys vision, to be a top performing global
brewer winning through inspired employees and
great brands, is achieved by living the company values.

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Social Knowledge Case Study

Molson Coors communicates their culture,


values, vision, and business practices through the
tag line, doing business the right way, which
translates to five company commitments: 1)
Performance with integrity; 2) quality products
marketed responsibly; 3) environmental stewardship; 4) value-guided investments; and 5) ethical
and responsible sourcing
For Molson Coors, doing business the right
way is synonymous with corporate responsibility,
and substantiated through active involvement in
charitable initiatives, sports, and entertainment
sponsorships. Molson Coors treats corporate
responsibility as a business practice, not an
ancillary project that can be set aside when other
priorities arise.
Corporate responsibility is one of the four key
foundations for our business success along with
profitability, people development and engagement,
and strategic brand growth.
Molson Coors communicates their culture,
values and business ethics on their website, in
their Annual Report, in their Press Releases, and
through their actions1 They also validate their
communications claims by measuring success
through external recognition number of awards
received and third party metrics for benchmarking to global standards and for substantiating
internal results.

Stakeholder Engagement
Molson Coors has wide range of stakeholder
groups, the first of which is employees. Internally,
Molson Coors strives to both continually challenge and consistently reinvest in its people as
passionate stewards of the brand2. Molson Coors
defines the other five constituents as follows:
Customers (independent distributors, channel
partners such as pubs, restaurants and retail),
consumers, communities, government (federal,
provincial, and regulatory agencies), and interest
groups (non-governmental organizations)3.

72

While the media is not a stakeholder group,


they are an important influence group that Molson Coors also engages in their communications.
Worth noting is that Molson treats stakeholders
as a cluster group when using social media. The
blog community, for example, encompasses
NGOs, government, blogosphere influencers, and
the public at large.4
Given the pervasiveness and opportunities
with the emerging online capabilities, the Molson
Coors Canadian operation was anxious to leverage social media and the new technologies, to
build an online Molson community, and engage
their core stakeholders in two-way conversation.
Building the Molson community was a way for
Molson Coors to listen and learn and in the process,
strengthen their relationships, build brand equity,
innovate, and sell more products.
From a social media perspective, there was
also a desire to test and understand the new tools
and channels, and get to know the influencers of
the blogosphere. The Web 2.0 initiative held the
potential of breaking down turf conversations
and setting up a model of collaboration. Molsons
starting point was the launch of a corporate group
blog in 2007, Molson in the Community.5

Trigger for Molsons


Embracing Social Media
The trigger for Molson embracing social media
was a post merger event. The company transformed
the Molson Donations Fund and Community
Investment portfolio from a monetary only contribution to new approaches in philanthropy. The
shift put Molson in touch with partners in the
community and drove benefits beyond the passing
of a cheque When the good news story was
passed over by traditional media, Ferg Devins, the
Chief Public Affairs Officer saw an opportunity;
he insisted that Molson needed to be telling the
story through a blog (Devins, 2009). In 2007,
Molson Coors began experimenting with social
media tools. After the initial failed attempt at a

Social Knowledge Case Study

corporate group blog, Molson re-launched the


blog in February 2008 with Ferg Devins as the
Executive Sponsor.
Shortly thereafter in the same year, the company introduced multiple Molson Facebook
sites, and Twitter. According to Ferg Devins, the
initial blog attempt failed because our first blog
on the community was based on employee communication and was not embraced by the external
community so it didnt work. We re-launched in
February 2008 with a broader community involvement. We took it from employee centric to how
important what we are doing is for the community
message. The goal for the re-launch of the blog
was to establish a platform to tell the compelling
Molson Community story (Devins, 2009).
Ferg elaborates: This story has been a cultural
phenomenon for Molson since 1786a story
worth telling. Stories on the blog are ones that
would not be picked up by traditional media its
an opportunity for Molson to tell their story; for
the channel to talk about community, philanthropy,
people (Devins, 2009).
For Molson, public good (corporate responsibility) is motivated by a number of factors. First, it
is part of the Molson Coors their heritage, inherited
through their founders. Second, it is important to
building brand equity, and as noted in the financial statements, changes in brand equity have a
material impact on the companys finances. Third,
Molson operates in a highly regulated industry,
hence, public perception and opinion is core to
their business success. Fourth, since public good
is part of the Molson Coors history, they are able
to leverage community contributions to tell the
Molson heritage story, and create a competitive
differentiator in the process. For Molson, public
good and selling beer go hand-in-hand, and this
mindset is seamlessly integrated in their values
and business practices.
Molson Coors faced a number of challenges
in their transition to online communications and
adoption of social media tools. The challenges
are summarized below:

1. Prepare the Corporate culture for the transition from command and control communications to two-way conversations;
2. Learn and effectively apply social media
best;
3. Select the tool sets and define the objectives
for each;
4. Define new policies and practices for use of
the social media tools;
5. Embrace the lack of censorship in social
media while mitigating the potential risks to
brand equity, and the companys reputation.
The transition goal was to leverage the power
of Web 2.0 social media but migrate in a way that
enabled the company to prepare for the changes,
and internalize the learning as it dynamically
unfolded. The business objective was to build
the Molson Coors community online, engage
stakeholders in two-way conversation, and share
the Molson story; the value-based heritage of a
company that does business the right way.

SUMMARY
In many ways, the true measure of Molsons communications success is in their evolution from a
failed company blog in 2007 to a transformed
social media organization in 2009. Ferg Devins,
summarized this nicely when he said, now we are
all brought together into cohesive communication.
Its about having one to one communication with
consumers and involving the brand staff. We are
knocking down the silos (Devins, 2009).
Molsons communication transformation has
fundamentally changed the conversations with
both the internal and external stakeholders. Molson
Coors Canada now has a clear understanding of
the power behind social media, and has gained
proficiency in the use of tools through program execution. They have listened, learned, understood,
and stretched the boundaries further to embrace

73

Social Knowledge Case Study

a greater range of social media technologies, and


use the channels more strategically.
Ferg summarizes the internal changes as, now
its simply the way we do business, (Devins,
2009). Externally, Molsons stakeholders have
embraced them by subscribing to their database,
participating in the two-way Tweets, forming a
fan base on Facebook sites, and engaging on the
blog. While there are still many opportunities
for growth, Molson has clearly exhibited social
media competence and Web 2.0 communications
strength. Since the launch of the blog in 2008,
many lessons have been learned, internalized, and
leveraged for the evolution forward. The Molson
story is making its way across the blogosphere
and other social media channels, and more importantly, it is being embraced by thousands of
their constituents.

JP MORGAN FACEBOOK
COMMUNITY CASE STUDY
Building on the success of JP Morgan Chase +1
(almost 50 000 fans) (Facebook.com), JP Morgan
developed a Facebook community. This application is developed by Noise Marketing New York
targeted at Gen Y. Though not developed Facebook, JP Morgan Community has quickly gained
recognition as one of the best applications to use
the Facebook platform. As an interactive tool,
JP Morgan Community utilizes the necessary
stickiness components, such as video, interactive games, and discussion boards that enhance
a users experience.
With the aid of an external marketing agency
and the marketing department at JP Morgan, the JP
Morgan Community is born. Its main function is to
enable easing of communicating with JP Morgans
employees and recruitment teams. It visually and
interactively enhances the users experience by
allowing access to all aspects of JP Morgan both
professionally and socially. This transparency of
the recruitment possibilities within JP Morgan

74

allows the user to easily identify which business


areas are of interest and the ones, which are not.

Why Facebook?
The easy accessibility of Facebook to both candidates as well as JP Morgans recruitment teams.
As a global organization with a global reach, JP
Morgan needs a global reach platform to attract
the best and brightest irrespective of location.
Facebook provides JP Morgan with the ability
to easily operate out of their central hub while
accessing their regional hubs in Europe and AsiaPacific as well.
As Facebooks roots lie in the university target
market there is an opportunity to connect and
create relationships with the Gen Ys through a
corporate lens. By leveraging the reach of Facebook, JP Morgan is positioning itself as a market
leader in terms of connecting with the Gen Ys.
Most global organizations realize the value in
investing in younger talent and JP Morgan is doing the same, not on their own terms but those of
the target market.

Features
One of the great aspects of JP Morgan community is that the features provide relevancy to
and interaction with potential candidates. With
potential new hires engaged, there are learning
opportunities for both parties involved. JP Morgan employs all forms of rich interactive media
to engage potential recruits. JP Morgan utilizes
video, podcast, photos, and PDF to inform the
candidates about the corporate culture. The use
of video is employed to demonstrate the daily
tasks of a trader to the securing of a mandate for
an upcoming IPO. This information is detailed
to allow for a better understanding of what type
of individuals are best suited for particular areas
of the business. Not only does this give greater
transparency to JP Morgan by enlisting actual
employees, but this also gives candidates a clearer
indication of where their strengths may lie.

Social Knowledge Case Study

Aside from using video to determine a professional fit, the use of photos gives a clearer insight
into JP Morgans commitment to teamwork and
camaraderie in a social setting. Through the display
of events from a summer boat cruise to a womens
networking opportunity, JP Morgan incorporates
the social sphere in a corporate manner recognizing the importance that Gen Ys place on working
hard in both professional and social environments.
The attractiveness of this feature is the invaluable information that is presented in a clear and
concise manner in an easy to use application.
Information gathering is an important tool to use
but using interactive methods to communicate and
simulate, engages the candidate on a higher level. It
is one thing to write a paper and read it but another
to have the ability to dynamically present as an
interactive method. The JP Morgan community is
connecting candidates with other candidates and
also with the recruitment team through the use of
discussion boards to keep all parties up to date
on the latest happenings. Information on specific
functions occurring on university campuses or
discussing a question about the interview process
can be found using this tool. The discuss feature
not only engages the candidate but provides critical information as well.
The most interesting interactive feature incorporated into JP Morgan Community is Trade Up.
Its purpose is to simulate the role of a Trader at
JP Morgan giving candidates an opportunity to
learn about trading and put their skills to the test.
As a player, the goal is to build a portfolio that
will maximize your return through the trading of
ETFs, FX, and commodities. There are incentives
for weekly winners as well as a grand prize given
at the conclusion of the game. Players are vying
for an interview for a summer internship with
JP Morgans recruitment team. As well weekly
winners are provided with the unique opportunity of submitting their CV to a member of the
JP Morgan recruitment team in order to receive
constructive feedback.

Trade Up provides candidates with the exclusive chance to transform the knowledge that
they have learned in the classroom into something
tangible. This also provides JP Morgan with the
opportunity to truly diversify their candidate pool
by not only having those with superior academic
backgrounds but also those who have the ability to
translate their academics into a real world skill set.
Aside from the interactive role of Trade Up,
JP Morgan and candidates can keep each other
with up to date information on events as well as
discussion through the Discuss section of JP Morgan Community. Besides a communal discussion
board each university in which JP Morgan hosts
an event is given their own page describing the
event as well as who will be in attendance. This
allows for the constant flow of information and
communication between both parties. Keeping
the process open and transparent.
Other features include a section to Get Involved
highlighting opportunities such as
Winning Women Leadership developed to
help women currently at JP Morgan to meet the
next generation of female leaders. As well as Teach
for America designed to eliminate educational
inequity. Full-time analyst accepted into this
program are automatically given a deferral start
date to pursue this opportunity.

Summary
JP Morgan Community is the one stop shop for
candidates to access information and connects with
JP Morgan employees as well. It provides a simple
but effective approach to getting candidates what
they need. As a result of leveraging Facebooks
popularity amongst the target demographic JP
Morgan has 6642 fans and JP Morgan Community
has 3515 monthly active users since going live
only 6 months ago (Facebook.com).
JP Morgan is seeing tremendous ROI, in a
recent Fortune survey MBA graduates ranked JP
Morgan as the 10th most desirable place to work
up 12 spots from 2007 and the highest ranking

75

Social Knowledge Case Study

they have seen since 1998 (fortune). It is clear


that introducing such a crisp and interactive application has proven a success to the JP Morgan
marketing and recruitment teams.
Until now there has not been an organization to
tap into such a resource. JP Morgan has pioneered
something in Facebook that has the potential
to revolutionize talent recruitment. Through JP
Morgan, Facebook, and Noise marketing, This is
where you need to be (JP Morgan Community).

COLLABORATION WHAT IT
TAKES TO BE SUCCESSFUL?
There are a number of collaboration execution
capabilities that need to be enabled to successfully take advantage of Web 2.0 solutions. Like
any new capability for development, investments
are required in multiple areas for successful execution and cultural integration. Outlined below
are a number of key success areas that are key to
accelerate collaboration and knowledge management socialization practices.

76

Governance
and
Leadership
Organizations that have been successful in
developing strong collaboration cultures
and business processes have had strong
senior executive sponsorship, and ongoing
governance planning. Leadership behavior
is one of the most critical success factors
for developing a successful collaboration
business model. If leadership behaviors do
not exhibit behaviors like: appreciative inquiry, trust making, openness, authenticity,
transparency, knowledge sharing, teamwork skills then overlaying collaborative
toolkits without a strong governance and
leadership foundation will only result in
weak collaboration cultures.
Culture - A cultural evolution requires
leadership alignment in vision and practices. Attracting, developing and retaining talent that exhibits strong socialization

and collaboration practices that includes:


knowledge sharing, teamwork, discussion,
cooperation, openness, trust, and risk-taking will have healthier socialization execution capabilities. Generation X and Ys in
particular have a need for stronger socialization and collaboration work practices
and the next crop of graduates raised on
instant messaging, Facebook, and virtual
world rich media experiences from sites
like: Webkinz, WhyVille, The Penguin
Club, and Second Life simply wont be
attracted to organizations they believe are
simply not with it. Organizations that
strengthen their collaboration, trust sense
making and socialization culture values
will innovate and sustain competitive advantage more effectively.
People Organizations committed to developing an increased collaboration business strategy will need to develop ways
of monitoring the organizations cultural
evolution. This can be done by introducing
new employee performance metrics, tracking employing attitudes, focus group interviews etc. The most important signal that a
culture is shifting to a stronger collaborative culture is by placing leaders in senior
level roles and promoting talent based not
on their ability to simply get results, rather
on their ability to lead, motivate and grow
talent successfully.
Process Organizations that embed collaborative business models and trust
sense-making into business processes
and practices increase knowledge worker
productivity and improve organizational
intelligence.
Organization Companies that invest in
collaboration and knowledge worker innovation and productivity strategies and have
an overall organizational design roadmap
to integrate collaborative capabilities improve their ROI significantly.

Social Knowledge Case Study

Technology The last ten years have


evolved significantly collaborative technology capabilities from simple email to
rich multi-media collaboration conferencing capabilities delivered by alternative access devices (web, mobile, voice, etc).

Gordon, & Iyar (2008). Why Buy the Cow? How


the on-demand Revolution powers the new knowledge economy. Lulu.com.

In summary, organizations need to learn how to


effectively use Web 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0, Social
Mediated Technologies or they will not attract,
develop and retain successfully the next generation
of talent. Companies that embrace new ways of
working will achieve greater competitive advantage and knowledge worker productivity gains.
More importantly these community socialization
practices are like new fuel to accelerate innovation.

Molson Corporate Responsibility Report. (n.d.).


Retrieved from http://molsoncoors.com/cr.report/

ACKNOWLEDGMENT
Primary Case Study research for the Molson
Coors and JP Morgan Case study was completed
by Cathy Koop, prior CIO of McGraw Hill, and
Past President of the Canadian CIO Association
of Canada. She is currently completing her executive MBA at the Richard Ivey School of Business
University of Western Ontario. She is also a partner of Helix Commerce, and Alex Watson, Helix
Associate, who has a B.A. Honors in Political
Science from the University of Waterloo. Alex
has expertise in Enterprise 2.0 and financial risk
management practices.

Molson Coors Fact Sheet. (n.d.). Retrieved from


http://molsoncoors.com/templates/molson_coors/
pdf/MCB_Fact_sheet.pdf

Molson Interview with Digital Social Media


Leaders: Ferg Devins, Chief of Government and
Public Affairs, Ross Buchanan Director of Digital
and Relationship Marketing, and Tanya Hammer,
PR and Web 2.0 Coordinator (2009).
Rand, M. (2004). What is a wiki, how can they
be used? Retrieved from http://forbes.com/
best/2004/1213/bow001.html
Wikipedia (n.d.). Wiki. Retrieved from http://
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki

ENDNOTES
1

REFERENCES
Collins, H., Gordon, C., & Terra, J. C. (2006).
Winning at Collaboration Commerce: The Next
Competitive Advantage. Boston: Elsevier.
Gordon, C. Weir, A, & Haynes, K. (2009). Virtual
Worlds A Universe of Opportunity. Helix Commerce International Inc. Retrieved from www.
helixvirtualworlds.com

List of Molson corporate responsibility


programs, policies, principles, partnerships,
research, and performance metrics, is detailed n the Corporate Responsibility Report
at http://molsoncoors.com/cr.report/
Molson Coors Fact Sheet, http://molsoncoors.com/templates/molson_coors/pdf/
MCB_Fact_sheet.pdf
The list of stakeholders also includes joint
venture partners, unions, other governments
that govern negotiated treaties, and investors.
2009 Annual Report.
Molsons Coors Interview with Ferg Devins,
Chief Public Relations Officer.
Molson in the Community corporate group
blog site: http://blog.molson.com/community.

77

78

Chapter 5

Social Knowledge in
the Japanese Firm
Benjamin Hentschel
Sophia University, Japan
Parissa Haghirian
Sophia University, Japan

ABSTRACT
It is widely accepted that the Japanese conception of organizational knowledge differs from the Western
view, with the former focusing on tacit knowledge and the latter more on explicit knowledge. The distinctive advantage of Japanese companies is widely believed, therefore, to be their unique ability to
continuously create new knowledge by means of the dynamic interaction of individuals. Some aspects of
Japanese culture are particularly influential on this knowledge management style, such as the strength
of face-to-face communication and the emphasis on gestures, behavior and context. These are cultural
factors that have shaped Japans distinctive organizational communication structures in periods of high
economic growth. However, having survived the lost decade, Japans companies now face a completely new business environment. As new technologies enable new modes of communication between
a companys employees, the use of social media in order to facilitate knowledge-sharing (social knowledge) has become widespread. Based on a qualitative study conducted in a Japanese organization, this
chapter investigates the extent to which social knowledge influences communicative behavior, and looks
at the implications for organizational communication patterns in Japan. The findings of this study point
towards changing patterns of social knowledge in Japanese firms.

KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT IN
JAPAN
Most scholars agree that intangible assets are far
more important for a firms success than their
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-203-1.ch005

tangible counterparts. As well as the traditional


production factors crucial for a firms success
(land, labor, and capital), knowledge is nowadays
considered as equally important (Wickramasinghe
and Von Lubitz, 2007). Numerous authors have
stressed the critical role knowledge has for a firms
sustainable success (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995;

Copyright 2011, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.

Social Knowledge in the Japanese Firm

Drucker, 1992). However, even if knowledge is


highly valued as an intangible good, it is very
hard to manage. An individual who possesses
expertise in a certain field might take his knowledge with him by leaving the company. Likewise,
an organization can acquire new knowledge and
therefore increase the organizations potential by
employing new workers or engaging in projects
jointly with non-organizational parties (Hentschel
and Haghirian, 2010).
As society entered the 21st century, organizations increasingly faced challenges stemming from
the globalization of their operations, management,
and knowledge assets. The ability to develop intellectual capital through knowledge creation and
knowledge-sharing on a global basis is identified
as one of the key determinants of a companys success (Ichijo and Nonaka, 2007, p. 3). Knowledge
management therefore plays an important role in
success: but as knowledge becomes increasingly
important for multinational corporations, cultural
differences in how knowledge is managed cannot
be ignored. Recent studies have emphasized the
vital importance of culture as a major variable that
influences knowledge-sharing in an organization,
as well as knowledge transfer across national
boundaries (Siakas and Georgiadou, 2008, p.
50). Japanese knowledge management has been
discussed especially widely in the last twenty
years, as it presents a complementary style of
managing knowledge to that of the West. Japanese
knowledge management evinces some particular
features that have long been an inspiration to
Western managers and management researchers.
But advances in technology, and recent changes in
Japanese society and its economy, have affected
the approaches to managing knowledge in Japan.
At the same time, there are changes occurring in
the nature and relevance of social knowledge.
Social knowledge, as defined by Girard and Girard
(2009), is the use of social media to create, transfer, and preserve organizational knowledge past,
present, and future with a view to achieving the
organizational vision.

The following chapter discusses the role and


relevance of social knowledge in Japan. In this
regard, the chapter first presents an overview of
Japanese knowledge management and its particularities. After this, new challenges and changes in
the Japanese economy which impinge on knowledge management issues are discussed. Finally,
the chapter presents the results of an exploratory
study of how Japanese knowledge management is
affected by these changes, and discusses whether
they have led to an increase in social knowledge
in the Japanese firm (J-Firm).

Tacit Knowledge
Japanese managers put great emphasis on tacit
knowledge (Takeuchi, 2001). A Japanese company requires employees to understand without
being told exactly what to do. Business practices
rely more on tacit understanding e.g., written
contracts are kept simple, or do not even exist, in
cases where a Western firm would expect extensive
articulation. Social situations must be read with
great precision. Tacitness and the talent for working with tacit knowledge are important (Hedlund
and Nonaka, 1993). This strongly influences the
way knowledge is perceived in Japanese management. Japanese knowledge management does not
only consist of data or information that can be
stored in the computer; it also involves emotions,
values, and hunches (Takeuchi, 2001).
Western epistemology, on the contrary, has
traditionally viewed knowledge as explicit
(Nonaka et al., 2001) and a Western corporation
cannot rely on tacit knowledge to such an extent.
Knowledge is believed to be unchanging and true
regardless of social circumstances (von Krogh et
al., 2000). Hence, Western firms are uncomfortable
with purely tacit knowledge as is the Western
individual (Hedlund and Nonaka, 1993). Nonaka
(1994) calls the Western explicit knowledgeorientated approach the knowledge of rationality.
Western companies are effective in creating knowledge concerning facts. Knowledge of rationality

79

Social Knowledge in the Japanese Firm

tends to ignore the importance of commitment,


and instead centers on reinterpretations of existing
explicit knowledge (Nonaka, 1994).
Employees in Western organizations hardly
ever stay for decades in the same company. Allowing them to gain too much tacit knowledge
may improve company procedures, but becomes
problematic if employees owning a high degree
of tacit knowledge decide to change their jobs or
leave the company for any reason. The Western
corporation therefore focuses on explicit knowledge, which makes work processes and results
independent of individuals. It usually emphasizes
the extraction of knowledge and develops and
promotes mechanisms to store knowledge in the
corporations knowledge tools.

Personal Communication and


the Free Flow of Knowledge
Another major difference between Western and
Japanese approaches to knowledge management
is the importance of informal knowledge and
information. To keep harmony and a feeling of
belongingness within the group, the exchange of
informal knowledge is essential. Most Japanese
companies therefore implement a number of operations to allow employees to meet and communicate in a relaxed manner. These activities include
nomikai (dinners with co-workers after work),
gasshuku (short excursions with co-workers), or
frequent tea or coffee breaks. During these events,
employees do not necessarily only exchange
work-related knowledge and information; most of
the conversations do naturally involve work, but
during these events participants can also criticize
their organizations or superiors. In any event, they
do support knowledge-sharing within the corporation. In their book The Knowledge-Creating
Company, Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) relate a
story in which managers during a nomikai came up
with a new idea on how to develop a new product.
The main idea here is that the course of informal knowledge-exchange leads to an increased

80

exchange of formal or informal knowledge that


leads, in turn, to competitive advantage.
It is therefore not surprising that the main difference between Western and Japanese knowledge
management is the way employees communicate
within the corporation (Mestre et al., 1999).
The strength of the communication in Japanese
organizations is a mixture of both upward and
downward communication along the hierarchical
levels (Table 1).
Communicating within a Japanese group, team,
or corporation has the overall goal of increasing
group consciousness and harmony within the
group. In doing so, the overall corporate vision
can be instilled into all members of the organization. Harmony and free communication between
all members increase the feeling of belonging to
an organization and the sense of enthusiasm toward
corporate goals. These communication processes
do not only refer to formal information and
knowledge: a Japanese organization also allows
informal or personal information and knowledge
communication between all members of the organization.
Western companies, on the contrary, do not
always value the exchange of personal or nonwork-related information and knowledge in the
workplace. Informal information is strongly
associated with gossip or rumors, and these are
not welcome in a Western business environment.
Employees are requested to focus on their work and
on the communication and sharing of work-related
information. Even if there are company events
that allow employees in a Western organization
to build better relationships with each other, the
main focus here lies on team-building and not so
much on knowledge transfer.
In recent years there have been a number
of attempts to introduce alternative methods of
knowledge communication, such as storytelling
to improve interest in sharing knowledge. Despite
this, exchanging informal information is not yet
the focus. Even though a number of practitioners
encourage the exchange of personal informa-

Social Knowledge in the Japanese Firm

Table 1. Functions of visual communications in Japanese organizations


Function

Question to ask

Definition

Signal group membership

Who are we?

Highlighting the uniqueness of ones own


company to others

Acquaint members with corporate vision


and culture

Why are we here?

Developing a unified mental model of values, beliefs, and emotional attachments

Maintain corporate vision

Why should we keep being and doing as


we are?

Continuous task of informing, reminding,


and motivating people regarding their identity, purposes, and values.

Alert members to changes in the work


environment

What requires our attention to be successful?

Informing corporate members of changes in


job requirements, market fluctuations, staffing, and production goals

Manage human relations

How can we get along?

Assisting in managing complexities of


people and groups in conflict-related situations

Provide avenues for expression

How do we feel?

Enabling employees to express their emotions and visions regardless of their status

Transform the corporate paradigm

How do we get from here to there?

Nurturing the thinking of business in radically different ways

Source: Mestre et al. (1999, p. 38 et seqq., slightly modified).

tion and stress its value, arguing that business


relationships flourish when personal details are
shared and that work-related information is only
a small part of the communication processes in a
company (Collison and Parcell, 2004), the value
of person- and people-related knowledge is not
yet recognized in the Western firm.

Comparing Knowledge Management


in Japan and the West
Peoples beliefs and values are embedded in their
national culture, which is strongly related to their
knowledge management (Wang and Schulte,
2005). In this sense, there are fundamental differences that become evident between the Eastern
and Western perceptions of how to deal with
knowledge. An overview of these differences is
presented in the following table.
Japanese organizations are more group-based,
rely on experience, and are tacit knowledgeoriented, whereas Western organizations put strong
emphasis on analysis, individual-autonomy, and
explicit knowledge (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995).

The Western approach to knowledge sees it as a


thing that can be made explicit and thus as being
capital that can be valued; while the Eastern
philosophy sees knowledge as an unfolding
truth, and proposes a [u]nity of universe and
human self that makes the creation of knowledge
a continuous, self-transcending process
(Andriessen and Van den Boom, 2007, p. 648).
Knowledge in Japan is seen as an ongoing
process, whereas in Western corporations knowledge is an asset that can be managed, moved,
bought, and sold. Japanese knowledge management is based on group processes and thinking,
whereas in the West individuals play the major
role in knowledge-creation. This leads to focused
information-seeking, whereas creative chaos and
open discussion dominate knowledge-creation in
the East. Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) characterize knowledge management in Western countries
as a machine for information processing, in
contrast to the Japanese companys view of the
organization, which can be described as a living
organism (Nonaka, 1991, p. 97).

81

Social Knowledge in the Japanese Firm

Table 2. Differences between eastern and western views on knowledge and its management
Japanese

Western

Group-based

Individual-based

Tacit knowledgeoriented

Explicit knowledgeoriented

View of knowledge as part of a process

View of knowledge as a asset, which can be moved, bought, and


sold

Knowledge is no leverage of individuals power

Knowledge is a leverage of individuals power

Emphasis on experience

Emphasis on analysis

Knowledge management highly integrated in companys operational activities

Knowledge management less integrated in companys operational


activities

Group autonomy

Individual autonomy

Unity of knowledge and action

Knowledge as capital that can be valued

Redundancy of information

Information is focused on a certain topic

Creative chaos through overlapping tasks

Creative chaos through individual differences

Knowledge-creation as a continuous, self-transcending process

Thoughts and feelings can be made explicit and thus communicated


and shared

Sources: Synthesis from Andriessen and Van den Boom (2007, p. 648), Haghirian (2006, p. 31), and Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995, p. 199).

Strengths and Weaknesses


Both approaches have strengths and weaknesses.
Western organizations focus on strategic aspects
of knowledge management and use knowledge in
the most effective way by making it independent
of its holders. Thus, a Western organization can
keep knowledge resources for a longer time, and
can continue to use them even if employees leave
or decide not to share. This is not always easy, and
many Western organizations struggle to develop
adequate knowledge-management operations and
to reach knowledge-management goals.
On the other hand, the competitive edge for
which Japanese companies are famous adds up
to more than just facts about managerial process.
Due to distinctive cultural attitudes, the traditional
Japanese organization favors the tacit knowledge
embedded in each of its members and the belief
in the organization as a group: values that have
fostered the prospering of the organization by
generating organizational knowledge out of every
individual at a very fast pace. Nowadays, Japanese
organizations that aim to effectively manage the
knowledge-creating process are facing external

82

influences that might affect their knowledgemanagement practices. These developments,


which were not visible a few decades ago, are
scrutinized in the following sections.
Japanese companies can make use of all their
employees tacit knowledge and can further increase the number of ideas which are implemented
in organizational processes. Organizations spend
little effort in motivating their employees to
share knowledge, since knowledge-management
processes are already strongly implemented into
organizational processes in Japan. The Japanese
approach further promotes bottom-up knowledge communication. All members can easily
participate in knowledge-management activities,
regardless of their hierarchical position.

SOCIAL AND TECHNOLOGICAL


CHANGES IN JAPAN
The economic recession, changes in Japanese
society, and technological advancements have
challenged traditional Japanese knowledgemanagement practices over recent years. Their

Social Knowledge in the Japanese Firm

main features, such as the importance of tacit


knowledge and the high level of personal communication when transferring information and
knowledge, have suffered from these developments. The following developments have had a
major influence on how knowledge is managed
within the J-Firm.

Technological Advances
In recent years, computer-mediated communication has been identified as a key driver for organizational knowledge-sharing (Dalkir, 2008). A
White Paper published by the Ministry of Public
Management, Home Affairs, Posts, and Telecommunications (MPHPT, 2004) investigates the
impact of new technologies, and especially the
new potentials realized by the use of networks.1
The connections between broadband users and
close relatives and friends have increased, but
at the same time the majority of the respondents
recognized that their working time had increased
as well.
An increase can be also observed in terms of
Internet usage. Figure 1 illustrates the usage of the
Internet by Japanese businesses in recent years.
Whereas in 2000 less than half of the businesses
in Japan made use of the Internet, the percentage
almost doubled in 2006, reaching 85.6 percent.

Figure 1. Use of the Internet by Japanese business


establishments (20002006)

More than a quarter of the participants answered that their leisure time had decreased due
to network usage. The use of communication tools
that comes with new technological breakthroughs
does not only shape the way in which people
interact with their environment but also the possible ways in which an organization can communicate with its customers (Ozuem et al., 2008).
What is more, it changes the way in which people
communicate within organizations. However, it
should be mentioned that this development can
also manifest itself in negative ways. The increasing usage and integration of information and
communication technology (ICT) is likely to correspond with an increase in social problems such
as flaming,2 false and fake group consensus, rumors, and group inefficiency (Nishida, 2002).
Johnston (2008) further underlines that the emergence of the so-called Web 2.0 applications3 gives
rise to the Information Workplace, describing
the ability to support the generation, documentation, and sharing of knowledge in completely
new ways.
Indeed, as the Ministry of Internal Affairs and
Communications4 (MIC) illustrates, there is a
small but visible increase in the percentage of
businesses that operate Social Networking Services (SNS) and blogs, from 4.4 percent in 2006
to 6.8 percent in 2007 (MIC, 2007). This upward
trend of 2.6 percent represents the tendency of
Figure 2. Changes in the lifestyle of broadband
owners as a result of using the network

83

Social Knowledge in the Japanese Firm

businesses to exploit the possibilities of Web 2.0


applications. Inoue (2007) also states that Web
2.0 has given rise to a variety of so-called knowledge communities that are formed on the basis of
an N-to-N5 model, such as Wikipedia, or question
and answer (Q&A) portals, creating a vast amount
of knowledge that cannot be ignored in terms of
both quality and quantity [and] is edited and accumulated every day (ibid., p. 3). He argues that
a company can greatly benefit from this external
knowledge if they know how to utilize it. This is
consistent with Nonaka and Toyamas statement
(2005, p. 430) that the organizations ba has to
be extended beyond the organizations boundaries,
enabling the integration of knowledge from
various outside players. However, in the case
of knowledge communities, Inoue (2007) postulates that few Japanese companies have so far
shown an inclination to utilize them.
The MPHPT (2004) further highlights the
forthcoming challenge of utilizing so-called ubiquitous networks in Japan. These networks6 can
be defined as infrastructures that are accessible
from almost anywhere via a wide range of different terminals such as laptops, cellular phones,
personal digital assistants (PDA), or televisions
(Kitamura, 2002). The MIC (2005) predicts the de-

velopment of Japan into what they call u-Japan,7


with ubiquity of such networks i.e. to connect
everyone and everything as its key aspect. For
organizations, the evolution of ICT also bears new
possibilities regarding the collaborative activities
of groups independent of where their members are
located (Serrano and Fischer, 2007).
In a recently conducted Internet survey8 among
the subscribers of the Japanese mail magazine
Jinzai Kyouiku (Human Resource Development),
the structure of communication in Japanese organizations was scrutinized. Tokuoka (2007) stated
that communication tools are the alpha and the
omega9 of a solid relationship in the workplace
between superior and subordinate. One of the
questions that the survey concentrated on was
related to the usage of communication tools in
Japanese organizations (Figure 3).
Possible communication tools were grouped
into four categories (i.e., channels). These were:
channels which publish information related to
company and business (e.g., internal information,
internal message boards, and internal notification
mails); channels that support the exchange of
information on a daily basis (e.g., electronic mail,
internal portal sites, and knowledge management
tools); channels for personalized top-down com-

Figure 3. Communication styles in Japanese organizations

84

Social Knowledge in the Japanese Firm

munication (e.g., the homepage of the section


chief, presidents message mails); and channels
for personalized bottom-up communication (e.g.,
blogs, SNS, companys staff trips, and more informal internal meetings). Most notably, almost
two out of three companies surveyed concentrated on communication tools that facilitate the
publication of business-related information inside
the organization. More than 50 percent of the
respondents used tools to exchange information
about daily business, and a little under 50 percent
actively supported top-down information structures. Surprisingly, only about every sixth company surveyed made use of communication tools
that promote the thoughts and feelings of the
organizations individual members. However,
about 40 percent planned to make greater use of
the internal bottom-up communication structures
that are enabled by tools like blogs or SNS. The
other, smaller, fraction of the surveyed organizations had no current plans to do so. What is more,
the same survey also reveals that the most-used
electronic communication tools were e-mail and
the companys Intranet (Tokuoka, 2007).

Baby Boomer Retirement


Another challenge that Japanese corporations
face is the long-term effect of the focus on tacit
knowledge. Since 2007, Japans baby boomers
(Japanese born between 1947 and 1949) have
started to retire. Their number is very high: current
calculations assume that more than 6.8 million
Japanese, or about 10 percent of the Japanese
workforce, fall into this category (Kohlbacher and
Haghirian, 2007). They are the classic salarymen
and the backbone of Japanese post-war economic
development. Many of them are living examples
of the lifetime employment system, and have
worked in the same corporation for more than
thirty years. Thus, they have become the knowledge stock of their organizations, and the fact
that they are leaving creates major problems for
the companies, as they take their tacit knowledge

with them. In many cases no knowledge has been


stored, because the employees had been available
to the company for the last forty years.
With the beginning of the new millennium,
many Japanese companies realized the need for
transition and are trying to reorganize themselves.
Concentrating on tacit knowledge obviously has
a high price, and many Japanese organizations
have started to develop mechanisms to extract
knowledge from their long-serving employees.
Western companies have more experience in extracting knowledge from employees, and can offer
interesting role models for Japanese organizations.
Japanese companies like Mazda are now trying to
store their knowledge and have started to develop
a number of mechanisms to share and transfer
implicit baby boomer knowledge. Baby boomers are being rehired or retrained as trainers and
coaches for younger employees (Onishi, 2009).

METHODOLOGY AND
RESEARCH QUESTIONS
All these changes impinge on the traditional way
general knowledge is managed in Japan, and
consequently also on the usage and relevance of
social knowledge management within Japanese
firms. In this chapter we present results of an exploratory study that investigates the importance
of social knowledge in the contemporary J-Firm,
seen especially in the light of the aforementioned
recent developments affecting Japan.
The investigation is based on a series of
qualitative interviews in a Japanese electronics
company, which we will call Company X. In total, five employees were interviewed, with each
of the five interviews lasting between sixty and
ninety minutes (Table 3). The interviews had an
open-ended structure and were conducted in the
participants mother tongue, namely, Japanese.
The authors favored this approach in order to
encourage the interviewees to answer as freely
as possible. The overall research design followed

85

Social Knowledge in the Japanese Firm

Table 3. Overview interviewees


Interview

Gender

Position

Male

Senior Manager

Female

Staff

Female

Manager (Marketing)

Male

Manager

Male

Staff (Research)

Source: Authors.

the grounded research approach first introduced


by Glaser and Strauss (1967). All interviews were
taped, on the interviewees permission. The taped
material was then transcribed by the researcher
and rechecked for possible mistakes with the help
of Japanese native speakers. The transcripts were
then coded in three steps following the premises of
the grounded theory approach (Dey, 1999, p. 98).
The questions asked centered on the communicational behavior of employees at Company X:
Among them were How do people communicate
in your company?, What technologies are used
to support inter-organizational communication?,
and Do you perceive any changes in your company in how people communicate? Consequently, the research questions that guided the
authors study were the following:
1. How is social knowledge communicated in
the contemporary J-Firm?
2. Does the manner in which employees communicate change due to the use of social
media?
3. What are the implications of the changing
patterns of social knowledge for the J-Firm?

Results: New Communication


Styles in the Japanese Firm
As shown above, the main elements of Japanese
knowledge management are the high amount of
tacit knowledge within the firm, the free and open
communication of knowledge and information,

86

and the importance of group-based knowledgecreation processes. With this in mind, the results
of the investigation are now presented. The main
focus of the interviews was placed on the interviewees observations regarding how knowledge
and information were managed within the firm and
what changes they had identified over recent years.
Our special interest lay in the question of whether
the management of knowledge in the J-Firm has
changed and what role social knowledge plays.

Communication
When it comes to internal or external communication, it is not a big surprise that correspondence
via e-mail has the most significant impact on
organizational communication behavior. Similar
to communication via a companys Intranet, email exchange belongs to virtual communication,
and thus transmits the bare information without
the context that both sender and receiver usually
need to share. Much more than using message
boards or organizational question and answer
sites, workers in Japanese organizations engage
in communication via e-mail almost constantly.
Several statements made by the interviewees
underline this development. Four of the five people
interviewed stated that people at Company X
communicate a lot via e-mail (interviewees 1, 2,
4, and 5), and one mentioned e-mail as important
in connection with the companys Intranet (interviewee 3). Three interviewees felt that there had
been a dramatic increase in the use of e-mails
over recent years (interviewees 2, 4, 5). What is
more, interviewees articulated the impression that
there is almost only communication via e-mail:
I have the feeling that everyone communicates
via e-mail, even the people sitting right next to
each other. Especially the developer and software
developer barely talk to people, even when having contact with their neighbors, they use e-mail
(interviewee 4).
Whereas interviewee 2 said: After all, at
Company X, through the influence of the Internet

Social Knowledge in the Japanese Firm

the writing of e-mails and various communication


tools [...] communication under the influence of
the Internet increased tremendously.
Similarly, interviewee 5 said: I think that
e-mail came with an enormous speed to the Japanese company. [...] How many years has it been?
Didnt it all start in the 1980s? [...] At Company X,
every worker had a workstation as well and when
I entered the company in the 1990s, everybody
used e-mail already. I think this is probably the
number one mail culture [...]. I think, depending
on the department, only e-mail is used to communicate. E-mails are also exchanged with the
person sitting next to one.
Furthermore, the Internet, which was mainly
used with stationary desktop computers, is now
broadly accessible by highly portable devices,
like notebook computers and PDAs. Thus people
are able to engage in virtual communication almost anywhere and at any time. As a result, the
utilization rate of mobile communication tools is
increasing and organizational members are more
likely to communicate virtually.
Interviewees predicted that the use of ordinary
desktop computers will decrease, while the steadily
increasing number of mobile computers will enable people to communicate over great distances.
Although the usual desktop computer still prevails
as the main instrument of virtual communication,
electronic communication tools that are handier,
smaller in size, and better integrated in a persons
environment are on the increase. A statement made
by interviewee 5 exemplifies this view: Lately,
mobile mails in Japan increased a lot. [...] the
exchange via mails that were written with a mobile phone is now increasing at a terrific pace.
Another interviewee highlighted the development of ubiquitous computing tools, with which
individuals can access the digital world from
almost everywhere: Well, the power of computers will become embedded in the environment, as
though everything will happen in the background.
[...] In our world, it is shifting toward a method
without using the computer. For instance, the

iPhone, it doesnt look like a computer, does


it? But inside, we find an enormously powerful
computer (interviewee 4).

Intranet
Apart from online tools the usage of which is
increasing in Western organizations as well one
knowledge-sharing tool that had increased in relevance at Company X is the Intranet. An organizations Intranet is a platform for the exchange of
information on a company-wide scale, regardless
of where the organizational members are located.
Via Intranet, intra-organizational communication
can be achieved very quickly and between multiple
peers, and this is a vital tool in keeping organizational members informed about developments in
the company. However, when communicating via
a virtual platform like the companys Intranet, the
receiver and sender of the information can hardly
share the same context, for they are not interacting
with each other in the real world but on message
boards or forums.
The Intranet at Company X provides several
functions for the sharing of information. It can be
accessed by opening a comprehensive portal site.
From there, every organizational member can access various news pieces, press releases, and also
information about the market, the customers, and
the competitors (interviewee 3). Organizational
members check frequently on the information distributed over the Intranet. One interviewee stated
that he uses it practically every day (interviewee
5). One of the Intranet tools to exchange information is the Voice of Customer (VoC) system.
Interviewee 3 averred that to know what satisfies
the customers needs is very important. The VoC
system, through which the customers needs
and opinions are collected and distributed on an
organization-wide scale, provides organizational
members with information of great value. By
listing the mere information about the customers
preferences, it is not always easy to know what
really counts as valuable for the customers. The

87

Social Knowledge in the Japanese Firm

personal aspect of the message i.e. the shared


background is lost, a circumstance that is not
favorable for an organizational culture wherein
context plays a significant role in sharing ideas
and knowledge. Consequently, although considering internal databases to be an important tool,
interviewees still perceived problems regarding
their use. The de-personalization of the message
entered is one of the most significant disadvantages. A statement made by interviewee 4 illustrates this: There is a lot of Voice of Customers
information in the databases, but because they
are all explicit documents, independent of the
situation and the character of the person, well,
they are in a state where the personalization and
the situation are lost.
Another interviewee is further convinced that
this de-personalization is highly problematic and
that it leads to questions regarding how exactly
those databases can be efficiently built: If we
look at it from the point of view of everybodys
activity, we understand that there is a relationship
between this information and this information and
this information.... However, if we think about it
from the sole perspective of the document, the data,
each [piece] is separated from the others.... Well,
I think that this might be a problem, to look at it
mainly from an IT perspective (interviewee 4).

Implications: Social Knowledge


in the Japanese Firm
Virtual communication includes interaction between organizational members that is facilitated
through the aid of technologies like Intranet
platforms, e-mail, or mobile devices that enhance
organizational communication. These play a vital
role in sharing and combining codified knowledge
inside an organization. Several pieces of evidence
regarding communicative behavior in virtual
environments could be obtained from the narratives of the interviewees and are presented below.
Personal interaction and knowledge-sharing
is dramatically decreasing in the J-Firm. At the
same time, communication via computers and
other technologies is increasing. However, when
two people exchange information via e-mail, on
message boards, or with the use of Q&A sites,
the message itself is already coded i.e., made
explicit. By this means, virtual communication is
less likely to be favored by a culture that relies
heavily on context in order to give meaning to
a transmission. Our findings are summarized
in Table 4, where virtual communication and
personal communication are presented in a twodimensional model.

Table 4. Shifting from personal to virtual communication in Japanese firms


Communication type
Personal communication

Virtual communication

Status

Decreasing

Increasing

Evidence

Fewer informal meetings in the workplace

Intranet is used very frequently

Strengthening of organizational boundaries

Virtual communities to discuss problems and to share


thoughts

Less contact between organizational members belonging to different departments

E-mails are written often, even between individuals


sitting next to each other

Decline in participation at informal after-work meetings

Increase of portable devices to exchange information

Face-to-face exchange of ideas between people with


different backgrounds is reduced

The stored (explicit) information lacks the required


context in order to understand it entirely

Problems for knowledge management


Source: Authors.

88

Social Knowledge in the Japanese Firm

The shift from personal communication to


technology-based communication is obvious. The
number of informal meetings is decreasing. Accordingly, organizational boundaries are perceived
as stronger and more difficult to overcome. Technology becomes increasingly important in managing and sharing knowledge, a development which
has also been shown in other recent research results. Nomura (2002) showed that typical R&D
people and corporate staff are [...] lacking contact
with customers and communication with other
companies. He further concludes that there is a
lack of interaction between members of crossfunctional teams. Critical for the process of socialization is the need to communicate directly
with other individuals to effectively share each
others thoughts and embedded knowledge.
With respect to personal communication within
the firm and even with customers, the question
arises of how traditional Japanese knowledge
management will be affected by these changes.
Some authors put forward the assumption that
traditional Japanese management practices are
in a state of change, and it appears to be only a
matter of time until some of them become obsolete (Mroczkowski and Hanaoka, 1998; Porter
et al., 2000). What is more, Motohashi (2003),
for example, stresses the fact that the Japanese
model [of knowledge management] is no longer
suited to todays environment. However, as the
study of knowledge in organizational contexts
is still a markedly underexplored field, little is
known about the changes in the area of traditional
Japanese knowledge management.
Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) highlight the fact
that the Japanese knowledge-creating company is
built upon the significance of tacit knowledge, and
the high level of institutionalization of personal
relationships. The perceptions of the status quo,
as reported by the interviewees from Company
X, indicate that there is a shift from personalized
face-to-face communication to less personal communication. In the case of the latter, people are
less likely to share the common context about a

topic that is necessary to successfully exchange


information. These developments are partly being
brought about by technological advancements and
partly by the need to work fast and efficiently because of the increasing international competition
the Japanese industry faces.

DISCUSSION AND OUTLOOK


With these circumstances in mind, the question
emerges of how a traditional Japanese organization copes with increasing virtual communication
among its members. Is social knowledge becoming more relevant in the J-Firm? Can it provide
solutions to the challenges Japanese knowledge
management faces?
From the data gathered, the direction of the
future development of Japanese knowledge management is not obvious. The interviews reveal that
the employees at Company X are indeed aware
of the consequences of the current developments.
Consequently, they express the need for change
regarding the manners of communication. As
interviewee 3, said: The communication [at
Company X] as of today is not sufficient. And
interviewee 4 adds: Of course, there are those
things like e-mail, chatting over the Internet and
wikis, but the real important thing is this real
[communication], because it only exists in the real
world, I think that this part becomes important.
The effect that new communications styles
may have on knowledge management and especially on the creation of new knowledge is also a
topic of discussion. Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995)
identify free communication within the Japanese
social group as the main success factor regarding
knowledge creation and new product development
in the J-Firm. These competitive advantages may
be threatened by the rise of new communication
styles. Interviewee 1 sums this up: I believe that
knowledge creation is not to think about something
that is in the head, but rather when different people
meet and have a conversation, when there are

89

Social Knowledge in the Japanese Firm

experiences born by meetings with the frontline


and going to the field [out of the office]. This
statement shows that the transformation of communication and knowledge management styles
impinges on traditional ways of dealing with new
ideas and innovation as well.
At this stage it is difficult to say whether social
knowledge will play an increasingly dominant role
in the J-Firm. So far, we can show that Japanese
knowledge management is strongly affected by social, economic, and technological developments.
Communication and knowledge transfer within
Japanese corporations is increasingly performed
via new technologies, yet personal interaction and
knowledge creation within the group is declining.
This development is seen as a major change in
how knowledge and information is managed in
Japan, and some authors even think that it might
also impact on the creativity and competitive
advantage of Japanese firms.
Thus, whether social knowledge will gain
significant relevance for the J-Firm is not clear
yet. On the one hand, the increasing importance
of social media for companies cannot be denied.
However, Japanese companies find it difficult
to integrate the usage of social media into the
foundations of traditional Japanese knowledgemanagement practices, which always put the
human being and the uniqueness of face-to-face
interaction at the center. The future will show
how Japanese knowledge management will deal
with this challenge.
The findings of this study suggest several directions for future research. First, more research
needs to be done in order to identify the channels
for social knowledge in the Japanese organization,
especially in the wake of the increasing number
of businesses that incorporate Web 2.0based
channels for knowledge sharing. Further, due to
the significant cultural differences in knowledgemanagement practices between Japanese and
Western organizations, the long-term impact of
social knowledge in both corporate settings needs
to be understood. Therefore, the authors stress

90

the importance of studies that not only look at


the status quo, but investigate the underlying
changes brought about by the increasing use of
social media in organizations.

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Takeuchi, H. (2001). Towards a universal management concept of knowledge. In Nonaka, I.
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SAGE Publications.
Takeuchi, H., & Nonaka, I. (2000). Reflection on
knowledge management from Japan. In Morey,
D., Maybury, M., & Thuraisingham, B. (Eds.),
Knowledge management: Classic and contemporary works (pp. 183186). Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

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Tapscott, D., & Williams, A. D. (2006). Wikinomics: How mass collaboration changes everything.
London: Portfolio Hardcover.
Tokuoka, K. (2007). Kojin kiten no komyunikeeshon ga inobeeshon o hagukumu o jsei (Communication that originates in the individual fosters the
creation of a soil for innovation). Jinzai kyouiku
(Human Resources Development), 19(12), 24-35.
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Enabling knowledge creation: How to unlock the
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of knowledge management practice in Taiwan.
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knowledge management: The latest in university
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petitive advantage when shared and re-used in


an organizational context. Examples include
knowledge about work processes, work content,
and corporate goals.
Informal Knowledge: Informal knowledge
is not considered related to work and is not directly
seen as increasing the competitive advantage of
the corporation. Examples include knowledge
about personal attitudes of employees, managers
or company owners, or unofficial reports on the
status of the corporation.

ENDNOTES
1.

2.

3.

4.

KEY TERMS AND DEFINITIONS


Tacit Knowledge: Tacit knowledge refers
to knowledge that cannot easily be articulated or
written down. It is strongly connected to its holder
and cannot be easily transferred. An example
of tacit knowledge is knowledge about how to
perform intercultural negotiations.
Explicit Knowledge: Explicit knowledge
refers to knowledge that can be easily articulated
or written down. It is not strongly connected to
its holder and can be easily transferred. Examples
of explicit knowledge include company reports,
blueprints, best practices, technical drawings,
videos, and audiotapes.
Formal Knowledge: Formal knowledge
refers to knowledge that is officially related to
work and which is supposed to increase com-

Participants in the survey were allowed


to give multiple answers. The percentage
value was computed by subtracting the
percentage of the people who answered with
increased by the percentage of the people
who answered with decreased.
The term flaming describes a way of attacking an individuals or a groups opinion,
usually on digital message boards. These
circumstances are often counter-productive
for real argumentation (Mackin 1997, p.
228).
The term Web 2.0 is in fact not easily
definable. Allen (2008) refers to Web 2.0
under four different headings: (1) websites
whose services allow the manipulation of
certain data by the actions of humans and
other computers; (2) as a business model
in which the company sets up a website to
collect user profiles and tries to generate
revenue by allowing advertisers to aim at
specific user groups; (3) as the description
of the trend toward more and more users
of the Internet creating, maintaining, and
expanding its content; and (4) seeing it in
a political sense, describing it as what he
calls libertarian capitalism.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications was known as the Ministry of

93

Social Knowledge in the Japanese Firm

5.

6.

7.

8.

94

Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts,


and Telecommunications prior to 2004.
N-to-N means many-to-many, in contrast
to Web 1.0 which is described as instantiating a 1-to-N, or one-to-many, model.
Kitamura (2002, p. 2) describes ubiquitous
networks on the basis of three characteristics:
(1) offering possibilities of high-speed data
transfer and being accessible via any mode
or any medium; (2) having the ability to be
accessed from any kind of IT equipment; and
(3) serving as an almost borderless virtual
environment where data can be exchanged.
With the letter u representing the terms
ubiquitous, universal, user-oriented, and
unique.
The survey was conducted between October
10th, 2007 and October 18th, 2007. The

9.

fact that the readers of Jinzai Kyoiku had to


answer the survey on the Internet was probably the reason for the low response rate:
among the roughly 3,700 subscribers only
171 filled out the survey. Thus, the response
rate amounts to 4.6 percent in other words,
only one in twenty subscribers contributed
to the survey.
The original quotation makes use of the Buddhist expression breath of a-un, where the
a in a-un refers to the first and the un to
the last sound that occurs when opening the
mouth i.e., in a broader sense, the beginning and the end of the universe. The authors
have translated the quotation in favor of a
Western readership.

Section 2

Cultural Aspects of Social


Knowledge

96

Chapter 6

Cultural Barriers to
Organizational Social
Media Adoption
Andrew Miller
Andrew-Miller.com, USA

ABSTRACT
From telephones to fax machines to personal computers to email, most communication technology
has been introduced with a business function in mind, prior to becoming a part of our social lives.
However, social media is a technological anomaly; private individuals quickly adopted this technology
as an extension of their personal life without any previous introduction to it through their workplace.
Due to this reversal, many organizations are struggling to understand how this technology can benefit
their mission, while many more worry that it will devastate productivity and security. Individuals who
wield the power of expansive social media networks can significantly alter an organizations credibility
and fiscal health. Organizations who harness the massive data warehouses behind these social media
networks have the ability to significantly alter individual lives and society at large; for better or worse.
With this backdrop, what cultural barriers are being raised against social media adoption and how can
management re-align their understanding of social media to better utilize resources and take advantage
of the opportunities this technology presents?

PAVING THE WAY TO SOCIAL


KNOWLEDGE
Paul Otlet envisioned a mechanized system of
shared knowledge back in the early twentieth
century (Rayward, 1975). As a peace activist, he
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-203-1.ch006

believed strongly in the transformative nature of


freely sharing all of the worlds knowledge as a
way of bringing understanding across the globe.
Mr. Otlet had conceived of a system of hyperlinks,
which not only bound information together but also
expanded on the understanding of the information
by providing context. Unfortunately, given the era,
the mechanism he envisioned was purely analog.

Copyright 2011, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.

Cultural Barriers to Organizational Social Media Adoption

This proved too significant a technological barrier for the system he designed to become reality.
Not quite a century later, you arrive at the
modern digital world. In 1993, Tim Berners-Lee
devised a system of hyperlinked documents that
connect back and forth to each other, forming
what he called the World Wide Web. Paul Otlets
vision had not been fully achieved but an incredible
milestone had. The final component was to add
context to the hyperlinks so that the information
could be turned into social knowledge.
As we move beyond the second decade of the
World Wide Web (aka Web 2.0 or the Social Web)
the realization of context through a combination of
metadata and machine awareness is starting to bear
fruit. Websites like Facebook are using metadata
and network awareness to provide suggestions to
users for new friends with whom they might want
to connect. Grocery stores are tracking spending
habits and linking them to manufacturer coupons
using complex algorithms to deliver coupons
custom tailored to driving individual spending on
higher end products. Search engines like Google
are combining traditional indexing structures
with social media networking data transfers to
add further context to searches.
The network of machines that makes up our
inter-connected world are, themselves, learning to
understand our interactions better through context.
The coming decades of this digital world should
prove extraordinary in the history of technology.
However, moving to a world of freely shared,
contextual information has far more than a mere
technological challenge to overcome. A world such
as this has a terrific cultural barrier to overcome
as well. Paul Otlets vision was not just to create
social knowledge but to extend it so far as to bring
world peace. His utopian vision meant he faced
an enormity of cultural barriers; some of which
are being echoed here and now.
This chapters vision is much more humble; to
scale the cultural changes down to the organization. Creating a culture shift at this point should,

in fact, have global ramifications. Will this shift


bring about world peace? Maybe not, but surely
it will change the way we understand our world.
Within most organizations, there lies a wealth
of information locked away due to both technological and cultural constraints. For the purpose
of this chapter, cultural constraints are those organizational habits, leadership and management
styles, policies and procedures that significantly
hinder adoption of social media usage.
Through example, the following cultural barriers to embracing social media will be clearly
defined:









The desire to maintain a separation of personal and professional life.


The fear of exposing oneself or ones efforts to scrutiny.
The concern that use of social media will
reduce productivity.
The fear of new technology and remaining
relevant.
The security risk inherent in sharing information socially.
The legal reporting requirements faced by
some individuals and organizations.
The flattening of organizational hierarchy
and what that means for management.
The loss of control over subordinates or
project scope.
The loss of competitive advantage.
The overall fear of a Big Brother organization or society.

These cultural barriers will be explained in


detail along side of current technological concerns. Here we will find both an opportunity to
remove the barrier as well as examples of how
this is already being done or might be done. As
a result of removing those barriers we will discover opportunities for developing useful social
knowledge.

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Cultural Barriers to Organizational Social Media Adoption

Table 1.
Underlying Problem
Cultural Barrier

Fear of
Reprisal

Transparency and
Exposure

Desire to maintain a separation of personal and professional life.

Exposing oneself or ones efforts to scrutiny.

Use of social media will reduce productivity.

Remaining relevant after introduction of this technology.

Loss of
Control

Inherent security risk in sharing information socially.

Reporting requirements and standards.

Flattening of organizational hierarchy.


Control over subordinates or project scope.

X
X

Protection of competitive advantage


Possible development of Big Brother entity

WHAT UNDERLYING PROBLEMS


ARE PROMPTING THESE
CULTURAL BARRIERS
In all cases, we see that these cultural barriers are
an attempt at risk management; is the risk really
there or is it merely perceived?
During the short lifespan of social media, we
already have several examples of people losing
employment, family and even their financial security due to over exposure through social media.
Transparency issues, requirements for greater
transparency as well as those for greater privacy
have resulted in private and public institutions
being forced to respond to expensive and embarrassing cases of exposure. Below is just such a case.
A case was brought before a Connecticut
U.S. District Court about the firing of Emmett
OBrien High School English teacher Jeffrey
Spanierman, aka Mr. Spiderman (Spanierman v.
Hughes, 2008). This case highlights several risks
that organizations and individuals face due to the
highly transparent nature of social media use.
MySpace, a popular social media network, was
being used by Mr. Spanierman as a way to communicate and connect with his students outside of
the classroom. Using the MySpace profile name

98

X
X

Mr. Spiderman, his students were able to add


him as their friend and see what he had posted;
they could then respond if they chose to. Over
time he had a long list of correspondence with his
student MySpace friends. When his co-workers
became aware of this they too reviewed his Mr.
Spiderman MySpace profile.
The court documents recount that the Mr.
Spiderman profile included pictures of naked
men with, what the school guidance counselor
Elizabeth Michaud claimed were inappropriate
comments underneath them. After giving the
teacher, an opportunity to remove the profile Ms.
Michaud later discovered that Mr. Spanierman
had setup a new profile Apollo68 and continued
his previous activities. Emmett OBrien High
School Principle Lisa Hylwa was then brought
in to the discussion where Mr. Spanierman was
eventually told that his teaching contract would
not be renewed.
Mr. Spanierman claims that he had a right to
use his MySpace profile both for his own personal
pursuits as well as for communicating with students. The courts ultimately did not agree with
him and his dismissal was upheld.
Coming to a resolution over this issue meant
involving many individuals, from faculty to stu-

Cultural Barriers to Organizational Social Media Adoption

dents to administrators and eventually the courts.


The facts surrounding the case are embarrassing
at the least to the school system and damaging to
the career of Mr. Spanierman. Questions were then
raised by parents throughout the community of
Ansonia, Connecticut about the health and safety
of their children.
In the case above the school took the appropriate steps to resolve the situation. Unfortunately,
it was a reactive solution instead of a preemptive
one. Trust is easily lost. To maintain trust should
organizations hide from social media? Should
organizations cut their employees off from these
interactions before these problems arise?
Schools, as in this case, have faced similar
situations of inappropriate behavior between
educators and students for as long as the two have
existed. Social media networks do make it easier
than ever for these sorts of inappropriate connections to be made. However, to suggest that this is
merely an issue where removing the technology
is the solution would be severely underestimating what is happening within our culture. Social
media has become integral to many peoples daily
lives and removal of it would be tantamount to
removal of phone access.
MySpace, among many other social media
networks, provides individuals and organizations
levels of exposure never before available. For example, MySpace rival Facebook boasts 400 million
active users (Facebook 2010). The ability for so
many people to connect to an individuals online
content and repost that content creates a multiplication factor of previously unheard of proportions.
This exponential reach is what presents us with
both risk and opportunity and management needs
to look for the opportunities to be found in this
level of individual outreach. Those opportunities
are often positive ways to mitigate the risks. The
organizations that ignore social media are often
the ones finding themselves blindsided.
United Airlines recently learned what sort of
exponential reach individuals have online and what
it means to their companys image due to an inci-

dent at OHare International Airport. A Canadian


band, the Sons of Maxwell, was waiting to deplane
to make a connecting flight. Prior to leaving their
seats, they noticed the baggage handlers throwing their expensive musical instruments across
the tarmac. The result of this mishandling was
a severely damaged guitar. After several months
of requesting a settlement from United Airlines,
the company chose to deny the claims based on
technicalities. The Sons of Maxwell then started
recording songs and videos titled United Breaks
Guitars which then went viral online with nearly
8 million views at the time of this writing (Carroll 2009).
United Airlines has since received international
negative press coverage because of the bands viral
videos. Due to this pressure, United Airlines promised to make reparations to the Sons of Maxwell
and apologized for the incident. Where United
Airlines has failed, Southwest Airlines has shined
by expanding their customer service to the online
world. Southwest Airlines hires agents to monitor
social media networks looking for conversations
and commentary about Southwest Airlines, offering assistance where possible and gratitude
when positive comments are made. Southwest
does this without a large public relations control
structure by empowering their workforce to do
the right thing.
Southwest Airlines customer satisfaction has
been consistently high with a very low rate of
complaints received by the US DOT compared to
all other US airlines, particularly United Airlines
(US DOT 2009). While this expansion into social
media networks is not the sole factor in Southwests
high customer satisfaction it is one that has been
closely examined by the competition. Over the
past year many companies have come to recognize
the opportunity for customer retention created by
Southwest Airlines social media efforts and are
now following suit.
The power behind this customer service model
is that the customer receives the help they need
in the medium they choose and the help may

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Cultural Barriers to Organizational Social Media Adoption

even come find them. This is in direct contrast


to the frustration most customers feel as they are
locked in a maze of phone support menus. Using
sophisticated social media listening technologies,
such as products like Radian6, an organization can
actually discover people in need based on their
content and then reach out to them directly to
solve their problem. While this process is anything
but informal it feels very much like it is informal
because often the staff assigned with providing
this support isnt traditional helpdesk or PR staff;
it takes a broader base than that to cover this type
of extensive, proactive outreach effort.
Social media users and particularly those
considered Digital Natives have a great deal of
comfort with these pseudo-informal processes that
companies like Southwest Airlines are employing
to maintain their organizations reputation. This
is because they use these same sorts of strategies
for maintaining their own reputations online. In
the book Born Digital (Palfrey & Gasser 2008)
the authors label Digital Natives as the younger
generations who are growing up with no direct
experience to the pre-internet enabled digital
world. This always connected always sharing
environment makes the Digital Natives comfortable with freely shared intellectual property, mass
collaboration, decentralized leadership and broad
transparency. This culture lends itself to creative
problem solving and greater innovation in all
aspects of life.
Digital Natives particularly, but more broadly
any social media innovators are taking advantage
of these online cultural traits and using them to
create products and solutions not because they
are charged with some sort of traditional position
of power to make these things happen; they are
instead doing it based on a burning desire to see
it happen and the free or cheap resources to do it.
Historically 3M has been a leader in supporting
experimentation by its research employees, giving
them time to work on projects they find personally
interesting. A culture of innovation has been built
at 3M. Nicknamed the bootlegging policy, 3M

100

gives technical staff up to 15% of their work time


on projects of their own choosing (3M Company
2009). When those projects look like they might
have a marketable application 3M gives more
time and resources; the company understands that
innovation can come from unexpected places if
you just let it. This is exactly how the ubiquitous
Post-It Note came to be.
The importance of this is, even under the weight
of highly vertical management structures, most
research and development companies understand
the value of exploration and experimentation as
it comes to product design. In these niches of
traditional organization structure, we can find
the building blocks of what is happening in social
media networks. Unfortunately, much of the rest
of the business operations have been much more
tightly scrutinized even at 3M.
In traditionally managed organizations business staff members are often kept in job roles that
become stagnant and inefficient due to the lack of
opportunity for experimentation and innovation.
Moving up the hierarchy of many organizations
reveals layers of middle management that operate
under this same culture. The nimble actions of online social media based startup companies are not
only related to fewer marketplace responsibilities;
it is much more about how they communicate,
collaborate and innovate. An example of this is
Twitter, which created the Twitter application as
a convenient way for internal employees to communicate before realizing the greater market value
of the Twitter application itself.
Unlike the passive suggestion box or the
manipulative workplace survey, organizations
are finding real value when they allow workers
and workgroups to realign based on a looser
definition of job responsibilities. This is not to
suggest that workloads are decreased or that a
worker hired to analyze contracts does not have to
continue analyzing contracts. Actually, expanding
empowerment to work across groups will often
mean greater workloads but the sense of empow-

Cultural Barriers to Organizational Social Media Adoption

erment and opportunity to follow personal desire


and curiosity brings with it higher productivity.
Social media tools allow for broad collaboration to happen even in traditional management
structures. These tools provide higher efficiency
through ease of communication and the creation
of searchable and linkable digital knowledge
stores. A study completed by PennEnergy, in
partnership with Microsoft and Accenture, found
that a potential net loss of $485,000,000.00 was
occurring annually due to ineffective collaboration and knowledge transfer between oil and gas
industry engineers (Microsoft 2009). The report
surmised that through the use of better social
media collaboration tools and implementing a
culture of collaboration and sharing this net loss
could be turned around.
Most management and shareholders see a major
downside to the productivity and efficiency gains,
namely a loss of direct control over intellectual
property. As Kevin Kelly discusses in his e-book
Better than Free, the Internet is a copy machine
and once something is made available online it
is impossible to ensure it wont be shared indiscriminately (Kelly 2008).
Freely shared intellectual property has resulted
in an explosion of cheap components and products; even if (or especially when) that sharing
was done illegally. Will the sharing culture that
is so engrained in social media cause a dramatic
shift in how we realize value or will the historical culture of patents, trademarks and copyrights
remain viable?
The current thinking is that anything that can
be experienced digitally will become free, not
due to intellectual property theft but due to the
fact that there is such an abundance of computing
power, individuals willing to do knowledge work
for free, project collaboration and the resulting
innovation. Chris Anderson, editor of Wired
magazine, talks about this freeconomy as being
more of a transactional ecosystem than a one-way
seller to buyer market (Anderson 2009).

Social media functions because of the idea of


sharing: thus the social in social media. This
sharing, or free culture, as described by Creative
Commons Licensing creator Lawrence Lessig in
his book of the same name, is one where intellectual property retains value but how that value
is realized changes. Intellectual property should be
made free when it expands the greater good through
creativity and innovation and he further argues that
this has often (sometimes inadvertently) been the
case throughout history (Lessig 2004). Because
digital technologies have prompted this shift across
so many industries, it is more controversial now
than ever before.
No single company has been in the crosshairs
of this conversation and controversy as much
as Google. Googles mission is to organize the
worlds information and make it universally
accessible and useful (Google 2009). The company provides a vast array of services for free to
individuals and pays for them through a combination of advertising and selling similar services
to enterprises.
One such controversial service is the online
publication of orphaned works of media and the
plan to offer all copyrighted publications. Google
has scanned over 10 million books into a digital
format and is making them available in different
formats based on copyright and partnership agreements. The access that Google is providing for free
has been attacked as being a theft of intellectual
property and has been pursued in Federal court
(Google 2010). News services similarly argue that
the aggregation of their content by search engines
such as Google is both a theft of their intellectual
property and damaging to their ad revenue due to
fewer direct website visits.
In an attempt to refine its value proposition with
its online and offline readership the newspaper
The Columbus Dispatch has taken to using a red
label in its newspaper to designate Only in the
Dispatch exclusive content (Columbus Dispatch
2010). Sadly, much of the response to this transparency about what the Dispatch creates is that

101

Cultural Barriers to Organizational Social Media Adoption

the Dispatch doesnt provide that much unique


content. Many users have commented more about
how much content from the AP and other news
outlets the Dispatch is printing; content already
available elsewhere. Attempting to maintain your
position can prove to be as risky as attempting
innovation in this social media networked world.
Another controversial aspect of Google and
similar companies is the technology behind
targeted advertising. The technology that targets
the advertising so well as to allow for this type
of business model to succeed requires a vast data
warehouse of users online activities; social media
use, searching, etc. One possible culmination of
all of this sharing, collaboration and transparency
is the building of digital DNA, the make up of
who individuals are online and its connection to
their offline life.
Several projects are underway right now trying
to understand this concept of digital DNA, digital
fingerprints and other essential identifying factors
to connect individuals online and offline personas.
One such project that is currently up and running
through the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
is titled Panopticlick (Electronic Frontier Foundation 2010). Panopticlick uses data leaks from web
browsers, cookies and plug-ins to capture unique
information about the system itself and the users
browsing habits to develop a digital fingerprint
that can be traced.
This leads to one final consideration; how
organizations become, or contribute to, a big
brother society. What does this mean to citizens,
clients and competitive advantage? Industry operates as the last bastion of privacy in many of
the developed nations. The transparency forced
upon governments and being regularly adopted by
individuals simply through the embrace of social
media networks has not reached most private
organizations.
Will the rapid adoption of social media culture
by the general public lead to private organizations
becoming more transparent; will it lead to a private

102

big brother state or will transparency be forced


upon them through citizen (or consumer) action?

REMOVING THE BARRIERS


TO OPPORTUNITY
The use of social media networks such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter has created an interesting dichotomy of online persona. On one hand
are the very personal relationships in what we
used to consider our private life; on the other are
the public expressions of those personal relationships and the unforgiving persistence of data in
the digital world.
Of interest is the amount of data and artifacts
surfacing within the digital world. Digital cameras,
cell phones, and the like feed the digital world
directly but as the attraction to social media grows
to further outlying groups, who are not early or
mainstream adopters of digital technology the
digitizing of historical analog data is exploding.
According to an IDC forecast the digital world
is exploding in size to the tune of 281 Exabytes
in 2007 growing towards 1800 Exabytes by 2011
(Gantz, Chute, Manfrediz, Minton, Reinsel, Schlichting & Toncheva 2008). For comparison, one
Exabyte is the equivalent of 1 Billion Gigabytes.
Considering that organizations such as the
Bibliotheque nationale de France has been digitizing its public domain documents for 10 years
as a part of the much larger implementation of a
Europe wide digital library (www.europeana.eu)
the amount of historical data comes into focus.
On a more personal level, photographs from
grade school and even details of long forgotten
relationships gone awry have found their way into
the digital world. Efforts to bring the past into the
hyperlinked and searchable present are occurring
all around the world.
Within the United States, the prevailing cultural
norm has been to expect some level of privacy
within your personal life. This is the basis of
several of our laws related to technology and to

Cultural Barriers to Organizational Social Media Adoption

healthcare. However, considering the amount of


data an individual creates or is linked to on a daily
basis it is difficult to imagine any real amount
of privacy - even when you are not explicitly
participating.
By explicitly cultivating an online persona,
whether for private use or professional use, there
must be no expectation of privacy. As we push
to utilize these same tools within our community
and professional organizations, a bigger question
arises: is it beneficial to try and separate our private
online persona from our professional?
In our earlier example of Mr. Spanierman, there
could be some debate as to whether the school
would have still found the case controversial had
he been posting the pictures of naked men and
adult commentary to a personal profile while conducting his connection with his students through
a separate profile; one specifically intended for
such communications.
Most social media networks allow for users
to maintain multiple profiles if they so desire.
Conceptually, maintaining a split personality in
the digital world is not considered a disorder like
it is in the physical world. In the physical world,
this split is impossible. Some people maintain a
level of separation between their professional and
personal life in the physical domain but there is
always overlap. And, it is the overlap that helps
to move careers forward; it is that networking that
occurs around personal passions that develop the
most productive connections.
What we are learning about the digital world
is that limiting separation can be much more
productive. Growing your social network online
or off requires making connections to people who
have some similarity to you; a shared experience,
a similar goal or perhaps a similar background.
Historically this has been accomplished by attending social functions, choosing a specific
neighborhood to live in and by presenting yourself
in an appropriately conforming way. Digitally accomplishing the same thing requires participating
in certain social media networks and participating

in those networks in such a way that you present


yourself positively and accurately.
In an attempt to create greater trust between
friends in social media networks Facebook,
LinkedIn and others have used policy and culture
to try and steer users to maintaining connections
only to other users that they are already familiar
with. In an article for The Economist, Dr. Cameron
Marlow found that the average number of friends
on Facebook was approximately 120, which falls
below the Dunbar Number a hypothesis by Dr.
Robin Dunbar that the human brain can only
manage a stable network of 150 or fewer connections (Marlow, 2009). In a study by Mitja Back of
Johannes Gutenberg University, reported on by
Bruce Bower for Wired Magazine, the researcher
discovered that college age users of Facebook
in the United States are very similar online as
they are offline (Bower 2010). According to the
article, Facebook is so true to life, Back claims,
that encountering a person there for the first time
generally results in a more accurate personality
appraisal than meeting face to face, going by the
results of previous studies.
This focus on trusted relationships has led to
the wildly popular activity of Meet-up events.
Meet-ups or, as they are called on Twitter, Tweetups are face to face networking events where
your online persona crosses over to the physical
world. Meet-up events often provide an excellent
opportunity to collaborate on various community
oriented projects, which then, in return, further
increase both your physical world social capital
and your online social capital.
For this reason individuals must become more
aware of how living a combined life, public and
private, physical and digital means that activities in
one component has effects across all components.
By choosing to maintain strong separation between
these components severely limits opportunities
because you have to limit your participation
based on which personality you are reflecting at
any given time.

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Cultural Barriers to Organizational Social Media Adoption

Organizations who hire these highly networked


individuals now have to consider the management
of every employee as a potential spokesperson.
This has been effective for Southwest Airlines and
recently for retailer Best Buy. Best Buy launched
an initiative they are calling Twelp Force (http://
twitter.com/twelpforce). Best Buy is asking its
employees to use Twitter to respond to customer
questions and complaints tweeted to the @
twelpforce account or found using various Twitter search tools.
Giving over 700 employees the green light
to use social media networking at work may be
a leap of faith but the company believes that the
social knowledge of the Best Buy employees
will provide customers with exceptional service
worldwide that they otherwise would not be able
to provide.
When this line blurs between personal and
professional life in a highly networked social
media environment, many organizations fear that
productivity will drop and time management will
falter. In response, many have chosen to block these
applications all together. As we will discover, this
is the wrong approach to take. As online personas
grow and integrate into all facets of life, there
becomes no or little distinction between personal
and professional online persona. What follows
is little to no distinction between personal and
professional time.
The globalization of business has had a dramatic effect on how workers perceive what time
they are on the clock and time that they are not.
Management of schedules based on a 24-hour
clock has been a struggle in the past; however,
when employees and managers are allowed to
function in a social media connected world not
only can the scheduling issues be overcome but
a previously unavailable advantage can be taken.
Social media collaboration tools can be used
to dramatically increase productivity but they
require a shift in how management interacts with
employees, and how management understands
the 24-hour clock.

104

In the pre-social media enabled world the most


effective way of collaborating on projects was to
work side by side, face to face and conduct meetings in that same fashion. The use of technology
was considered a hindrance. Communication over
time and space required physically being available
at a particular location for a conference call, video
conference or even early web-enabled conferencing. These technologies were expensive to use and
while they provided the needed flexibility at the
time, they were still a secondary solution.
Today tools allow for multiple streams of
text, video, file sharing and collaborative data
generation in real-time. Calling a meeting where
all stakeholders are in the same room is now very
often the secondary solution when all members are
comfortable with the social media collaboration
tools available to them. In many cases, even the
idea of interacting in real-time is now a less advantageous use of technology. Instead of imagining
an example where time and space are the primary
factor in using online tools as opposed to a face
to face meeting lets consider the facilitation of
a collaborative work meeting online, even with
participants who work within the same building.
Using a collaborative technology such as Skype
or Google Apps all members of the work group
have the ability to talk via video conferencing and
participants can drop in and out of the meeting as
desired. During the conversation, they can quickly
pull up files and share them with each other. Using social media collaborative document tools the
documents, spreadsheets and presentation files can
be edited by all participants in real-time together
and new participants joining the conversation
after the scheduled meeting time can continue to
provide their input.
After the social media enabled meeting has
ended you are left with ready-made artifacts,
which are linkable and searchable, by everyone
involved. The work can move forward immediately following the meeting without the need to
distribute files and coordinate the ownership of
those files. Management and workers alike can

Cultural Barriers to Organizational Social Media Adoption

instantly review who has made edits to the files,


at what time, in what order and what changes
occurred. Review notes can be tacked onto the
files allowing for further discussion.
There is a learning curve to becoming comfortable with how these collaboration technologies
deal with multiple real-time editors; this learning
curve is a source of concern for management and
workers not yet exposed to it. Most managers still
feel that a face to face meeting is the most effective way to direct project activities.
Face-to-face meetings are very easy to command and control. The person calling the meeting
generally has control over what data elements are
interjected into the conversation and has removed
participants from their work area where they have
access to their own materials. By requiring people
to disengage from their workspace, to physically
come together in a room that doesnt provide them
with the instant access to data available at their
desk; you remove a level of empowerment that
social media savvy workers thrive on.
A risk to those managers and workers who do
not have a literacy of the social media collaboration
tools being employed is that they may lose control
of the meeting or control of what they believe is
their domain of expertise. When a social media
savvy employee is able to quickly link the data
from across a broad range of work, it has the possibility of lowering the perceived value of those
other employees.
The artifacts of face-to-face meetings are kept
by the note takers who may then provide a static
copy to the participants at some later date, once
those notes have been transcribed into a suitable
electronic format. Time spent waiting for participants, away from work areas, is often wasted time.
Remember, the context of this chapter is breaking through cultural roadblocks to using social
media so it is important to understand that face to
face meetings and other traditional methods can
still be the appropriate process; this example is
merely meant to expose the opportunity lost when

social media collaboration tools are completely


removed from the meeting options.
Building camaraderie between management
and workers or between work groups is often
fostered in face-to-face settings. If you consider
the meeting type itself as a technology, be it face to
face or online, you can begin to understand which
technology is most appropriate for certain goals.
Today there are even several face-to-face meeting technologies that align some of the positive
attributes of social media enabled online meetings.
Open Space technology is a meeting technique that
allows the participants to build the meeting agenda
to fit with what they see are the most important
needs to the overall mission. Community Circle
develops a stronger sense of equality across workgroups and the use of consensus can help move
groups past struggles by forcing solutions instead
of allowing roadblocks to stymie forward progress. World Caf is another meeting technology
that helps to walk large groups through a process
of discovering new solutions by spreading ideas
rapidly and giving them a chance to interconnect.
All of these technologies are complemented by
Harvesting technologies which are essentially
collaborative note-taking techniques that link
ideas instead of locking them down.
Harvesting can also feed social media content.
Using social media collaboration tools provides an
exceptional level of transparency, recording every
transaction a user makes with the system, work
done, and time and date stamps. Unfortunately,
a natural component of this level of transparency
can be scrutiny.
How many times have you had a coworker,
staff member or supervisor who did not pull their
weight within the organization? Working transparently provides workers who are well suited
for their position an opportunity to shine while
exposing those who might be better repositioned.
Organizations would benefit by using this
transparency as an opportunity to better align the
workforce with current duties (as well as finding
new business opportunities). The result of this

105

Cultural Barriers to Organizational Social Media Adoption

re-alignment is an organization with increased


productivity and greater innovation. However, if
the organization chooses to use the transparency
as a magnifying glass to scrutinize those workers
the result will be higher turnover through low
morale and ultimately lost opportunity. Thus,
the challenge becomes finding the balance that
encourages transparency as a route to positive
change for employees.
The shift from single time zone, 12-hour daily
coverage to the 24-hour work clock has left many
organizations struggling to approach the cultural
shift appropriately. Organizations now have a
mixture of traditional workers expected to be
present and productive at the physical workplace
during certain hours as well as workers who are
expected to cover needs occurring outside of that
time frame. This mixture has created work environments where most levels of the organization,
from line staff up through middle management,
are fearful of being transparent about their work
effort on any given day because of the possibility
of transparency being used to scrutinize.
Vast differences in skill and experience related
to using social media networks and tools have
the ability to create fear within the workplace.
Social media networks have presented the world
with a sea change in how we interact, making it
significant in terms of socio-technological shifts.
However, from a standpoint of pure technology,
this change is not unlike others we have seen in
the past. Craftsman and laborers giving way to
machines and robots, secretarial pools giving way
to administrative assistants as desktop computing
replaced Dictaphones and typewriters.
Transformation of business due to technological advancements occurs regularly and is more a
case for change management than for derailment
of an organization. Whether the technology provides cost savings through reduced work force
or through reorganization is the discretion of the
individual organization.
If an organization is looking at social media
networks and collaboration tools solely for their

106

cost savings measures then they are missing a huge


opportunity to harness the power of their shared
social knowledge. It is this social knowledge that
Paul Otlet recognized as a source of empowerment and organizations should embrace that as
well. Empowered workers with a shared vision
and mission can create amazing things.
By encouraging the use of social media networks the transparency and networking between
workers and work groups allows skill sets to be
brought to light that otherwise may have never
been tapped. Building searchable and linkable
data provides a path for sharing social knowledge
across the broader organization, building the social
knowledge that is so valuable.
Creating a forum for broad organizational
collaboration and constructive criticism develops
an internal validation and innovation system. The
old adage about a fresh set of eyes holds true and
the use of social media multiplies the number of
fresh eyes you can get on any project.
As previously mentioned, a singular difference for social media over previous workplace
technology advances is that it has been adopted
first in the home and then transferred to the office,
meaning it is much more accessible to the average
person. Workplace adoption of new technologies
historically has been staggered by generational
differences. While the authors of Born Digital have
taught us that the Digital Natives are at a distinct
advantage, adoption of social media is rapidly
crossing generational lines, removing this barrier.
One opportunity that exists for business is
exploiting the new found social opportunities
for individuals born well ahead of the digital era.
A primary source of fear related to generational
differences and the technology is the fear of identity theft, or the theft of intellectual property. On
a personal level this has the potential of ruining
ones financial security, at the organizational level
this could be devastating both financially and to
the organizations reputation.
Security has always been a combination of
technology and culture. Secure passwords, cau-

Cultural Barriers to Organizational Social Media Adoption

tious browsing and guarded interaction online can


be prompted by technological solutions but only
work when users are in a cultural of awareness.
Young people in our society who are considered Digital Natives have grown up with literacy
beyond that of what previous generations grew
up with. Being literate in a digital world, a world
of social media means that you must be able to
critically discern between what is true and what
is false; what is self-serving and what is more
wholly accurate. Digital Immigrants, those of
us born before the widespread adoption of the
internet and its digital counterparts, have had to
grow our understanding of literacy to meet this
demand as well.
This new literacy also includes the understanding of how these technologies work. This
informs the way that the literate interact with
new technology including how they understand
security. The prompting built into the technology
has been, to the literate, like the prompting of an
English teacher over the proper use of their, there
and theyre.
Over the long-term the adaptation of older
workers to the life of a Digital Immigrant will better protect individuals and organizations through
the spread of the new literacy. In the near future
however, our more open use of social media could
actually become our protection.
Remember the Panopticlick project and how
it is learning about individuals and developing
a digital fingerprint? In much the same way we
can identify a close friend by sight, a computer
may learn enough about our online persona to
know when we are who we say we are - or not.
The system will never be perfect; even today, con
artists still work over their marks face to face;
Bernie Madoff being a great current example
(Wikipedia 2009).
Already systems are in place that record
purchases made by an individual (using credit/
debit card transaction information and/or in-store
shopper cards). Individuals in most industrialized nations are captured on video systems mul-

tiple times a day. Mobile phones have the ability


to track our every move, record our voice/text/
multi-media communications and record certain
purchases. Mobile technologies are coming out
that allow remote tracking of health devices such
as Bluetooth enabled pace makers, etc.
A current MIT Media Lab project called SixthSense that was conceived of by Pranav Mistry is
still in its infancy but has the ability to recognize
people and products. Working from that recognition the software then scans the internet for links
related to that thing and provides the user what
it believes is relevant information (Maes, Mistry
2009).
Include in all of this an individuals interaction
(and possibly their friends interactions related
to the individual) on social networks and you
can quickly conceive of a network recognizing
whether the person buying gasoline in Kansas City
is the individual they purport to be. At this point
passwords and other current security protocols
become much less significant.
For systems to engage people at that level
there will need to be higher integration of current technologies, individuals will need to feel
comfortable with that intimacy, and ultimately we
will require new legislation to protect individuals
from systematic abuse.
Currently the commonly named Sunshine Laws
provide citizens in the United States with a level
of government transparency. Other nations have
similar protections while private organizations
worldwide have far fewer requirements to act in
a transparent way. Transparency laws, the policies
that follow them and the individuals administering them, directly affect the cultural opinions of
transparency based on how they administer those
laws. Under the administration of President George
W. Bush, most attempts to invoke transparency
laws by watchdog groups were blocked by that
administration. The national culture became
one of skepticism over transparency and honest
governance.

107

Cultural Barriers to Organizational Social Media Adoption

President Barack Obamas administration


has put in place many efforts to increase access
to government records; however, this fairly new
shift means that the national culture remains
skeptical over whether or not these actions are
leading to a new level of government transparency. If administrators take a narrow view on
transparency requirements then the public is right
to be skeptical the technology is there to provide
broad transparency but the culture may not be.
One solution being pushed by groups such as the
Copy Left and Free Culture is to move society
towards an Open Source standard.
Open Source technically refers to the General
Public Licensing method that keeps software
source code open, copy-able and edit-able by
anyone who chooses to; the only requirement being
that whatever they then create also must maintain
those associate licensing rules. There are some
variations of this including the earlier mentioned
Creative Commons licensing. What is important
though is the level of sharing of ideas inherent
in this system and its unrelenting transparency.
Open Source as an ideal beyond software licensing suggests that all organizations should be
fully transparent down to its nuts and bolts. The
effect this has is to put individuals and organizations on more equal footing as social knowledge
becomes freely transferrable.
The history of organizations has been one of
providing data from worker to supervisor, and
then disseminating the data from that point as
management sees fit. Technology has similarly
developed over the decades around this idea of
hierarchy based workflow. Data moving through
this type of system becomes a silo (or worse,
standalone) which maintains the command and
control structure of that now inefficient hierarchy.
The more rigid an organizations internal controls are for workflow the more likely that social
media adoption is being fought. Opening up this
data is a fundamental step towards changing the
hierarchal culture.

108

Individuals have discovered the power of


crowdsourcing through social media, exploiting
the social knowledge on a very basic level, at
home and in their communities. Crowdsourcing
is essentially inviting hobbyists and experts to
participate in solving a problem and creating
something new. Crowdsourcing most frequently
happens based on peoples passions and less on
immediate financial reward. Once again, the cost
may include direct control over a project but
social media savvy workers find crowdsourcing
empowering and like to bring this very efficient
way of learning and collaborating into their organizations; ultimately increasing organizational
efficiency and innovation.
Utilizing social media as a way of building
collaboration across organizations will help flatten
hierarchy and will change the control structure
over subordinates and projects. Here again we
have an opportunity for public scrutiny which
can provide an individual or organization with a
chance to make significant changes.
While this public scrutiny may be seen as an
assault on competitive advantage, looking at the
internet development model suggests this isnt
true. Goods and services are being crowdsourced
online; that which can be freely used is, while
those things that have actual value added are still
being bought and sold.
Broad collaboration can provide superior goods
and services than are available today. Wikipedia
is an example of just this sort of thing. Not only
is Wikipedia much more flexible (something
detractors have claimed makes it untrustworthy)
but Wikipedia has also been found to be as accurate as the venerable Encyclopedia Britannica
(Giles 2005).
The opportunity for business then is to have the
vision to see those goods and services to market
in order to create profit. Competitive advantage
in the future will be calculated more by the quality of the collaboration you can build than by the
secrecy surrounding your product.

Cultural Barriers to Organizational Social Media Adoption

DOES THE FUTURE BELONG


TO OTLET OR ORWELL
Functioning as an Open Source organization,
one that allows for the full utilization of social
knowledge has many advantages but is not without risk. If there is not a concerted effort to bring
individuals, government and private sector organizations into a common set of guiding principles
over transparency then we may introduce the risk
of a long held fear.
The final cultural challenge is that of the
Orwellian Big Brother state. While still broadly
considered a fear of government dictatorial type
control over citizens the (re)entry of private
contractors into the police enforcement and defense market creates a growing fear of this same
phenomenon happening via private sector. While
that concern is the extreme consider how even
low levels of tracking can introduce controls over
personal habits that ultimately have very negative
effects on individuals and society at large.
Massive data collection services are being
utilized today by the private sector with relatively
little oversight. The major credit bureaus have all
sited that the information used to calculate credit
scores as being confidential intellectual property
as well as information about how your data is to
be used by their clients. They market their services
to a wide base of clients, from small businesses
all the way up to the Federal government.
A glaring example of this questionable use is
the recent housing bubble. During the creation
of the housing bubble the banking system was
hiring physicists and theoretical mathematicians
to calculate new ways to take advantage of these
pools of prospective mortgagors; the very same
mortgagors that so many people have questioned
how they were ever allowed to take out a revolving
credit line, much less a mortgage. To find these
individuals the corporations had to do a great
deal of data mining; using the very data mines
created by every individual just by being a part
of our society.

Google, along with many other search engines


and various telecommunications companies
have been subpoenaed in the years following
September 11, 2001 to provide the government
with pools of data in attempts to protect against
terrorism. As with any public safety issue there
is a balancing act to make sure the safety goal
is being achieved without injuring the rights of
individuals. To verify that the balance is being
kept requires open records to fully understand
the process. Currently, however, we only know
about these subpoenas through whistleblowers,
as the efforts are considered confidential by the
government and, as such, do not fall under the
requirements of Sunshine Laws.
This raises the question: who owns the data
that makes up an individuals online persona and
who decides how that data can be used? The credit
bureaus are some of the largest stores of personal
information in the world and they claim ownership
over that data. Using that premise, they create
ratings about you as an individual and sell you
(at least the digital equivalent of you) to anyone
willing to pay for it.
One option for changing this dynamic is
through radical transparency. Introduction of transparent processes and open source data resources
at both public and private organizations would
allow watchdog groups to be effective. However,
in our current culture the lack of trust between
individuals, private and public organizations may
prove to be too large a gap to bridge.
Unfortunately, there is a growing economy
in control of data that, in our capitalist society,
almost assures that this lack of transparency will
also grow until individuals decide that the risk
to their digital identity is too large to continue
down that path.
In the realm of non-profits, it is interesting to
note that local and state governments are following the lead of the current federal administration
and developing online tools to provide a greater
level of transparency to their residents. Not all
massive companies are opposed to Open Source

109

Cultural Barriers to Organizational Social Media Adoption

ideals. Google continues to expand their use of


Open Source principles in products such as their
Android operating system, Chrome browser and
upcoming Chrome operating system. Google is
one example of a company that is expanding its
profitability and influence through this transparency. As an example of individual desire for greater
transparency, companies such as Apple are suffering backlash from users over their closed-door
policies particularly as it relates to its software.
So is there a chance that the future will belong
to the Paul Otlets of the world? Perhaps.
Social media use by individuals appears to be
penetrating organizations enough that our culture
is leaning more and more towards sharing, at least
in terms of data, intellectual property and the
building of social knowledge. Before we can move
towards Otlets vision, we must organizationally
embrace what individuals are already embracing.
These cultural issues are as important to reference and detail as the technology surrounding
them. Technology alone, without cultural considerations, could well lead us closer to Orwells
vision than we would ever want to be.

IN THE END WHAT DO WE KNOW?


Using social media to grow, capture and reuse the
social knowledge within organizations holds great
potential for creating more efficient, innovative
and successful organizations. The cultural barriers
holding organizations back are not vastly different
from the cultural barriers that held organizations
back from previous technological advances.
The key to successful implementation and
sustainability of social media in any organization is to realize that the cultural changes must
be considered up front. Social media is merely a
tool. Like any new tool, there is a necessary adjustment period where the user has to grow into
a comfort level with it.
However, due to the exponential reach of
social media and the associated responsibility

110

that comes with that, organizations cannot minimize the importance of creating a solid cultural
foundation among their social media users. This
foundation must include openness to sharing, a
clear understanding of transparency, a desire to
work collaboratively and a new literacy of understanding how social media works. Without this
foundation organizations can expect to run over
pitfalls that they might not be able to recover from.
Giving internal work groups, staff and even
supporters the opportunity to engage each other
about how social media could be utilized is a first
step to building the culture necessary for success.
There is a very good chance that many people
within an organization already have ideas about
how they could work more efficiently through the
implementation of some social media tools they
just have not been asked to share those ideas. Worse
yet your organization may be actively telling them
not to share those ideas by shutting out access
to social media and punishing employees using
the tools. Organizations can foster this type of a
culture through participant led cross-functional
meetings where the experts (not necessarily the
decision makers) can be discovered.
Using techniques such as Community Circle,
World Caf and Open Space creates face to face
interactions that are more like the interactions
that occur in healthy social media networks. By
utilizing techniques such as these that remove
hierarchy the true wisdom of the organization
can be found. Social knowledge harvesting is
ultimately the focus of these meetings, which
can then provide content for the social media
tools being used.
The capture of knowledge through social
media allows for more than just quick reference,
it also helps to build the internal network of your
organization making stronger buy-in from all
stakeholders. That is why social media networking
is so attractive at the individual level because it
allows humans to be even more human by doing
what comes naturally: embracing social connections. Together, we have learned that while

Cultural Barriers to Organizational Social Media Adoption

there are many pitfalls to avoid along the way to


embracing social media the reward of navigating
this cultural and technological shift appears to be
well worth the risk.
Of course, this may not bring about world
peace but it should make the future a little better
in its own way.

Giles, J. (2005) Nature International Weekly


Journal of Science Special Report: Internet
encyclopedias go head to head. Retrieved from
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v438/
n7070/full/438900a.html

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ADDITIONAL READING
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How to Stop It. London: Yale University Press.

KEY TERMS AND DEFINITIONS


Community Circle: A face to face meeting
technique based on first nation style councils
where a talking piece is employed and there is
no designated leader. All members participate
in note-taking using Harvesting techniques and
consensus is used for decisions requiring that a
party that disagrees with a course of action must
offer an alternative until all parties come to some
resolution - http://www.artofhosting.org/thepractice/methods/circlepractise/.

Cultural Barriers to Organizational Social Media Adoption

Copy Left: A movement to maintain a copyright with extra distribution rights that provide
incentive for programmers to add to free software
through alternative licensing solutions - http://
www.gnu.org/copyleft/.
Creative Commons: A licensing scheme that
enables the creator to keep a copyright while allowing certain uses of the work to further broader
cultural creativity http://creativecommons.org.
Crowdsource: Presenting a problem or scenario to a broad group of people so as to derive a
solution from the wider perspective.
Digital DNA: All of the data that is connected
to an individual and can be analyzed to learn more
about that individual.
Digital Native: People who have never known
a world without mass digital communications,
particularly the internet and mobile phone technologies.
Digital Immigrant: People who have adapted
to a world with mass digital communications but
were raised during a period that analog technology
was still the primary communications technology.
Free Culture: The cultural movement captured
in a book of the same name by Lawrence Lessig
that decrys much of the protection of intellectual
property rights in favor of broadening the cultural
impact of that intellectual property through free
sharing of the ideas.
Freeconomy: An economy based on offering
partial or complete services for free and relying
on 3rd party forms of revenue generation developed from the existence of a large user base of
the primary service.
Harvesting: A technique of note taking that
allows every individual the opportunity to write or
draw what they feel are the important ideas coming out of a conversation on a shared surface in
the center of the conversation, or in some similar
interactive way, ensuring that the main ideas of
the conversation are not lost nor incorrectly interpreted - http://www.artofhosting.org/thepractice/
artofharvesting/.

Machine Awareness: The ability for a digital


machine or network of machines to process social
interactions and provide a response based upon
those interactions.
Meet-Ups/Tweet-Ups: Face to face networking events organized via online social media
networks usually with some community activity
planned as a component of the event.
Metadata: Contextual data that helps machines interpret data in a way that enables machine
awareness.
Open Source: The use of licensing schemes
that maintain open source code to software and
hardware. The broader idea that all of the structure
behind a system (either machine or human based)
be transparent to both the operators and the users
of that system - http://www.opensource.org/.
Open Space: A face to face meeting technique
that uses a marketplace format with open time
slots instead of a structured meeting agenda. The
meeting participants are invited to fill those time
slots with particular topics that they have a passion
for that relate to the meetings mission - http://
www.openspaceworld.org/.
Radical Transparency: Broad transparency
of digital data shared holistically across digital
networks and devices as a way of fully connecting
a person or organizations digital DNA.
Social Knowledge: Knowledge created by
the members of a community of interest sharing
individual and collective experiences, learning
from each other and capturing those lessons.
Social Media Listening Technology: Technologies that learn patterns in a person or organizations social media usage patterns and provide
reports based on where those patterns intersect with
the intention of a particular person or organization. The technology is used to develop targeted
advertising and engagement schemes.
Targeted Advertising: Advertising that is
customized to a user based on information collected about the users online activities.

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Cultural Barriers to Organizational Social Media Adoption

Viral: Online content that becomes so popular so fast that it quickly spreads through social
media networks.
World Caf: A meeting technique that separates attendees into small groups to answer ques-

114

tions which purposefully lead a conversation about


a larger organizational roadblock. Within each
small group Harvesting is done during each round
and group members change groups between rounds
to spread ideas - http://www.theworldcafe.com/.

115

Chapter 7

Organizational Culture:

A Pillar for Knowledge Management


Paul J. McBride
PhD Student, USA

ABSTRACT
This chapter describes how and why organizational culture is paramount towards endeavors of social
knowledge and knowledge management systems. Previous literature is discussed and ideas presented
to give an underlying understanding of organizational culture and knowledge management and how
the two interact. It is argued that a culture based on honesty, trust, and openness is best suited for
knowledge management. Cultures will ebb and flow as they evolve. It becomes important for managers
to take notice when this occurs. Learning is essential to developing cultures as it molds the participants
inside the organization. Organizations that employ social media to aid in culture development will
build systems of knowledge management that are based on proper culture that will inevitably lead to
competitive advantage.

INTRODUCTION
An organizations ability to learn, and translate
that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate
competitive advantage.
-Jack Welch, Chairman, General Electric

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-203-1.ch007

Industry leaps of efficiencies are bringing companies closer to one another in effectiveness and
strategy management that will inevitably lead to
a war of attrition. Organizations are recognizing
the strategic importance of social knowledge
management within their respective firms to establish efficiencies inside firm practices. Many
organizations have arrived at the conclusion that
effective social knowledge management can enhance their competitive abilities (De Long and

Copyright 2011, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.

Organizational Culture

Fahey, 2000) and provide strategic advantages


in the marketplace. However, to truly offer a sustainable advantage the advancement made from
social knowledge management must add value.
(Oliver, 1997) Once an implemented knowledge
management system exhibits added value, it will
offer the organization the ability to consistently
outperform competition.
The value benefit of social knowledge management will branch from the ability of a firm
to develop the proper organizational culture.
Value benefit can best be defined as differences
in strategy and structure across the firm that offers above-normal rates of return. (Oliver, 1997)
Organizational culture is vital to a firms success
and performance as it is what leads activities
that reinforce best practices. (Reed, Lemak, &
Montgomery, 1996)
The adoption of knowledge management
follows the seeking of technical efficiency gains
and customization of practices that lead to unique
business problem resolution. Organizational
characteristics will lead firms to adopt stronger
culture bearings, clearly needed for successful
knowledge management ventures. Knowledge
management will aid corporate leaders in allocating resources to areas that offer greater advantage
and benefit, while staving off competition. This
will effectively eliminate the root of business
problems while enabling achievable performance.
The allocation of firm resources, which include
assets, capabilities, organizational processes, and
firm attributes, (Barney, 1991 and Spender, 1996)
will aid in outperforming rivals and establish clear
distinctions that can be preserved.
Attention to customer requirements is supreme
when environmental uncertainty is high. (Reed,
Lemak, & Montgomery, 1996) When firms are
market driven, their attention is focused on anticipating and responding to customers needs and
preempting those needed changes. (Reed, Lemak,
& Montgomery, 1996) Knowledge management
will aid in understanding environmental shifts
inside and outside of the organization which will

116

reduce the elasticity of demand by the customer.


(Reed, Lemak, & Montgomery, 1996) Improved
revenues will be realized by a positional advantage
made with the development of accessible knowledge management. It is the implementations of
knowledge management that will allow firms to
turn improved responsiveness into value priced
items and services. It will further drive competitive
advantage that comes directly from the abilities
of the firm to develop goodwill with customers,
distribution channels, lines of technology, and
lines of communication, a positive reputation and
many other benefits associated with channels of
knowledge management. Firms, with the assistance of knowledge management networks, will
take into consideration their relative competitive
strengths. When stakes are escalated, the firm will
allocate needed resources to knowledge management development. This allows firms to employ
a decision-making process based on information
seeking and information processing activities (Yu
& Cannella, 2007) which aids in understanding
the environment in which they interact.
The chapter will concentrate on the importance
and pitfalls of organizational culture and its relationship within social knowledge management.
Discussed within the chapter will be the evolution
of culture around participants inside the firm and
how those participants develop the assumptions
and values they use. A short literature review and
general descriptions of key terms are also included.
The chapter will move into common assumptions
about culture and knowledge management and will
finish with future research implications and where
the field of knowledge management is heading.

ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE
Question: What are the three critical factors in
knowledge management?
Answer: Culture, culture, culture

Organizational Culture

-Bob Buckman, president, chairman, and CEO of


Bulab Holdings, Inc.
Authors and captains of industry alike develop
lists that look different but undoubtedly they
all will include one well known characteristic;
organizational culture. Organizational Culture
continues to be the single hardest aspect to see
or unmistakably outline by those participating
inside it. Organizational culture is expressed in
many different ways that not one single viewpoint
is consensually shared. Edward Schein defined
organizational culture as:
A pattern of shared basic assumptions that the
group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration that
has worked well enough to be considered valid
and, therefore, to be taught to new members as
the correct way you perceive, think, and feel in
relation to those problems. (Schein, 1984, pp. 12)
Clyde Kluckholn defined culture as the set of
habitual and traditional ways of thinking, feeling,
and reacting that are characteristic of the ways a
particular society meets its problems at a particular
point in time (Serpa, 1985, 426) and Deal and
Kennedy (1982, P. 4) simply defined culture as the
way things get done around here. All are correct,
distinctive in nature, and inclusive. (Schein, 1986)
Culture, as seen every day, can be a cloudy
feature experienced and still the most difficult
practice to encapsulate with agreed upon definitions. (Goffee & Jones, 1998) What is exceptional
about culture is that everyone is aware of it but
generally find it difficult to describe in consistent
terms. We have all experienced within our lives
an element of culture either in work, school, or a
social club. It is equivalent to gravity as it governs everyday life and is ultimately inescapable.
Organizational culture is what a new employee
feels when they interview and is offered a position. It is the first thing they understand when a

fellow employee lays out the tacit rules of firm


survival.
CEOs of companies praise culture and its
existence and have blamed it for slumping profits and obsolete product lines. It is considered
extremely valuable to organizations and almost
always taken advantage of. The culture will direct
upper management in outlining mergers and how
to raise corporate finance while also aiding the
floor level supervisor on disciplinary measures.
Many studies report that one single aspect of firm
behavior that has lead to failure of the firm is the
misuse of organizational culture. (Cameron &
Quinn, 2006) There are many models associated
with organizational culture, evolution of culture,
and the change of culture and most include values,
norms, and practices inside their descriptions and
how to assess and evaluate the use of them. It is
the most powerful force inside an organization
but cant be measured similarly to balance sheet
ratios or new functional pieces of equipment. It
is the blood line of any organization and can sink
a firm without notice. Employees learn how to
interact inside culture and pass that learning on
to new hires. Additionally, there are struggles
over culture as actors inside organizations fight
to change or uphold the culture in place. So there
must be something to culture that does so many
things without being granularly defined.
Unlike other management frameworks, organizational culture is relatively new in management
understanding. As powerful and responsible as
organizational culture is in defining a firm, it
has only become a popular subject within management circles during the 1980s. (Hatch, 1993)
Although the social glue of organizations has
been evolving over many decades, its true observed
value and acceptance are only recently acknowledged. (Serpa, 1985) During the first stages of
organizational culture, bureaucracies were the
initial focus as they exhibited size and popularity.
Companies that were larger were more noticeable
due to larger market shares and exposure to public
opinion. Additionally with more players inside

117

Organizational Culture

the larger organizations there were more factions


and personality intermingling that brought about
new developing cultures. This soon was replaced
with more companies of larger growth moving
through many separate sagas. (Pettigrew, 1979)
While the movement was rapid, cultures evolved
into what they are today inside their respective
firms. Every company today may have a culture
in place that may be best described as dynamic,
friendly, suffocating, or drab. They are essentially
the personality of the organization and can be
expressed on many different levels from the shop
floor to the executive offices.

KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT
There is a modern day explosion of knowledge
due to technological advancements that make it
possible to access large amounts of information
instantaneously. Recent management gurus such
as Daniel Bell and Peter Drucker are making
organizations aware of the value of lost, unused,
unnoticed, or inaccessible knowledge. (ODell
and Grayson, 1998) Although organizations are
realizing the importance of knowledge, there is
still some confusion concerning information and
its role in knowledge development.
Knowledge management doesnt even start with
technology. It starts with business objectives and
process and a recognition of the need to share
information. Knowledge management is nothing
more than managing information flow, getting the
right information to the people who need it so that
they can act on it quickly.information is a verb,
not a static noun. And knowledge management is
a means, not an end. (Gates, 1999, p. 238-239)
ODell and Grayson (1998) share a similar view
to Bill Gates when they describe knowledge as
information in action; using the knowledge to
better the business situation. It is the developed
knowledge put into action that benefits organi-

118

zations. It is the correct knowledge becoming


actionable in the right set of hands. Ideas become
implemented based on facts gathered in a network aimed at leveraging new learning to gain
a competitive advantage towards the betterment
of the organization. Knowledge management is
more than a sales pitch or buzz word, it is using
what an organization knows and basing judgment
and decisions on experiences and understanding
by organizational participants. (Ruggles, 1998)
Recently organizations began to consider
themselves a compilation of knowledge and the
activities around it. (Spender, 1996) Organizations now delve into knowledge management
frameworks in order to share information, develop
avenues of better decision making, launch new
innovation, develop quick and efficient problem
resolution systems, and the development of best
practices. (Alavi, Kayworth, and Leidner, 2006)
Firms must successfully develop systems of
knowledge that build an absorptive capacity
by using prior knowledge to spawn new acquired
knowledge. (Gold, Malhotra, and Segars, 2001)
The information inside knowledge can be captured
in many different forms but mostly resides inside
the minds of the individuals in the organization and
developed through experience and understanding
of the environment around them. Although most
knowledge matrices are engrossed with data, it is
the experiences and understanding that prove truly
valuable to the organization, making it imperative
that organizations become knowledge-based to
take full benefit.
New knowledge begins at the grass roots with
the individuals inside an organization. (Nonaka,
1991/1998) How a company finds the value in
the knowledge is by making it accessible to those
inside the organization.
The general understanding among academicians of knowledge management is that knowledge
will progress through three distinct levels of hierarchal importance; those being data, information,
and knowledge. (Girard, 2004) This becomes an
umbrella concept as those who practice business

Organizational Culture

in differing organizations may label the levels in


other ways but will normally include the three
mentioned inside their platform of knowledge
management. There are some levels of disagreement with hierarchal pyramids concerning knowledge development but a consensus exists that the
progression towards knowledge acquisition will
flow from data to knowledge.
Knowledge creation may progress through
four distinct avenues; those being from tacit
to tacit, from explicit to explicit, from tacit to
explicit, and from explicit to tacit. Tacit to tacit
knowledge in exhibited through on-the- job training, storytelling, and observation. This level of
knowledge development is sometimes referred
to as socialization and is displayed in the work
setting as a mentor/apprentice relationship. The
employee will learn a trade or task and eventually
train it out to someone else. Explicit to explicit
knowledge development occurs through formal
education, data, and read documentation. It can
be seen through work manuals and is largely
called combination. Tacit to explicit knowledge
development occurs through descriptive means
such as metaphors and analogies. Tacit to explicit
knowledge occurs through a piece of knowledge
further developed into a new form that is easily
understood through the new development. The
externalization of this process can be exhibited by
a new surgeon further developing old techniques.
The final form, explicit to tacit, is called internalization and is brought about by simulations and
experiences. The master will further develop an
understanding based on knowledge acquirement.
These techniques working in conjunction simulate
a spiral of knowledge. (Nonaka, 1991/1998 and
Girard, 2004) The spiral of knowledge will move
through all four stages of knowledge creation and
eventually work back to its beginnings.
The four concepts of knowledge creation need not
operate in isolation. Imagine the middle manager that patiently observes executives at work.
Through socialization, she slowly learns the inner

working of the boardroom. In an effort to formalize her knowledge, she articulates or externalizes
the executives ideas into a series of procedures
based on economics principles. By combining
the codified procedures of several managers, she
develops and documents new concepts. Finally,
she presents these new concepts to a number of
managers, perhaps at a conference, and they
internalize the ideas and create even better ways
of affecting their technique and thereby creating
a competitive advantage. At this point, the process
may recommence. (Girard, 2004, p.31)
The spiral of knowledge will further develop
knowledge by bringing the learning back again but
at a higher, more developed level. New knowledge
creation begins as much from ideals as it does from
an individuals ideas. (Nonaka, 1991/1998) Organizations that foster this mentality will essentially
turn all employees into knowledge technicians.

ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURES
SET FOR SOCIAL KNOWLEDGE
DEVELOPMENT
A firms most significant roadblock to effective
knowledge management is its culture. (Gold, Malhotra, and Segars, 2001) As organizational models
are predicated on many separate aspects, there is
no exact model that fits all organizations. When
a culture becomes based on knowledge sharing
there are a number of factors that are built inside
that culture. The values most quoted by recent
studies are sharing, honesty, openness, and trust.
These will enable a higher level of innovation and
efficiency building inside the organization. (Alavi,
Kayworth, and Leidner, 2006) Honesty, trust and
openness are essential to an organizational culture
geared towards knowledge sharing.
Delong and Fahey identifies specific value orientations believed to facilitate or hinder knowledge
sharing. They argue that value orientations such

119

Organizational Culture

as trust and collaboration will lead to greater


willingness among firm members to share insights
and expertise with each other. In contrast, value
systems that emphasize individual power and
competition among firm members will lead to
knowledge hoarding behaviors. (Alavi, Kayworth,
and Leidner, 2006, p. 196)
Unfortunately a number of organizations are
replete with individuals practicing disingenuous
methods towards business practices. When participants inside organizations begin to repress bad
news (Serpa, 1985), call one-on-one meetings
outside of larger meetings, and carry out a level
of groupthink it becomes vital that the management take notice. The culture that includes these
practices is not equipped for knowledge management. (Serpa, 1985) Individuals inside organizations involved with groupthink tend to be averse
to new, dynamic ideas. There is no collective
judgment from the group, only a central theme
brought by one member or faction. What usually
occurs is a tendency for a members response to
gravitate towards a central idea brought through
group discussion generally restricted by an agenda
bent on control. (Whyte, 1989)
Social knowledge depends heavily on social
meetings and social media. Social media aids
participants in understanding the knowledge the
company wishes to capture and develop. When
one thinks of media they first envision television,
newspapers, or radio spots generally offering
some sort of information for the viewer, reader,
or listener. Although social media is similar its
aim is slightly different than popular forms of
media. Social media is directed towards smaller
groups of participants; smaller at time of interaction. It is a tool to get those using it to speak of
it and develop it further within their every day
vernacular; making it part of the culture.
Social media, on the surface, sounds similar
to groups think as they are both used to develop
interaction between groups to share knowledge.
Where groupthink runs amiss is that the group

120

gains insight to only one opinion and are steered to


agree with that prime mover. Knowledge sharing
is not encouraged and considered disagreement as
members inside organizations employing groupthink hold on to knowledge as a form of currency.
Groups can sometimes be mired down with a
centralized structure of information pass down.
Although it is important for a core information
depository, ideas and new learning must be
started and shared in a decentralized manner.
Organizations find the most effective way for
social media is to find success when employees
display autonomy inside their group or individual
settings. (Janz and Prasarnphanich, 2003) The
sharing of knowledge becomes second nature
inside organizations that offer the feel and approach shown through a localized structure of
lateral communication effectiveness. (Miles &
Snow, 1992) The decentralized setting enables
employees to sense a level of empowerment that
influence a creative nature towards cooperative
learning and collaboration. They begin to share
more of what they learn which in turn will build
an additional knowledge base and further develop
the culture set towards true knowledge sharing.
Collaboration, as it takes place between individuals
and organizational actors inside and outside the
walls of the firm, will bring together differences
that are essential to driving knowledge creation
and removing groupthink. (Gold, Malhotra, and
Segars, 2001) Furthermore, processes used for
conversion and application of knowledge must
be put in place to make better use of the effort of
knowledge sharing.

The Evolution of Culture


Organizational culture is a set of shared mental
assumptions that guide interpretation and action
in organizations by defining appropriate behaviors
and norms for various situations. (Jarvenpaa and
Staples, 2001) A persons past learning and belief
structure is essential to shaping the practices and
vision of the organization. The learning described,

Organizational Culture

coupled with others inside the firm, will draft the


culture to be and define the practiced behavior.
It is the organizational culture that principally
deals with the internal workings of an organization and it is its identity that interacts with the
external environment. The learning is associated
with reinforcement that comes from avoidance of
experiences that are not the most pleasant. (Schein,
1986) Anxiety replaces the most perspicuous actions until reinstated with an underlying culture
brought by participants of the environment. The
survival of the culture solely depends upon the
players inside the organization and the culture
espoused and grown through the organizational
identity.

Organizational Identity
Organizational Identity can be exhibited in the
form of projected images, new slogans, new vision and mission statements, logos, or corporate
mottos. Organizational Identity can be either
physical or linguistic artifacts and are geared
towards persuasion of employees and outsiders
to the organization and the culture within. These
projected images can be destructive, when not
aligned to what an organization is attempting to
accomplish; especially when they do not agree
with the culture. Organizational identity aids
participants in their respective organizations to
make some level of understanding of what they
are accomplishing or attempting to do. Participants
will continue to develop and uphold institutional
claims based on interactions with those inside their
organization. (Ravasi and Schultz, 2006) With the
identity taking root, participants further solidify
these surface-level behaviors with additional
interpretation and eventually assigned meaning.
It is this assigned meaning that should be used
to aid in outlining the culture moving forward.
Artifacts are important symbols of the burgeoning organizational culture taking hold. When you
enter a business it is the artifacts that are visually
seen or audibly heard that alert one of the culture

in place. Artifacts begin the evolution of organizational culture and launch social media to the
participants. It is imperative that the social media
is correctly aligned with where the organization
wishes to develop their employees and the interactions that will make up that culture. Generally
encouraging posters and important quoted statements begin the new employee, existing employee,
or visitor upon the journey into the culture. Organizational artifacts make up the surface level of
its Cultural dynamics. (Hatch, 1993)

Theories Practiced
An organizations culture is built through the
employees practice of espoused theories and
theories-in-use. These terms were made popular
by Chris Argyris and Donald Schon during their
exploration of congruence and learning inside
the examination of reasoning processes through
conscience and unconscious means. Espoused
theories justify a given pattern of activity by
outlining the general practices of the organizational participants. They are used to convey to
others what an organization does, what they want
others to think they do, and how they perform.
Espoused theories are strongly associated with the
evolution of the culture. Additionally they can be
formative of the culture as they springboard the
vision moving forward.
During Buckman Laboratories journey to
becoming a knowledge management champion
they espoused their need for the development and
use of an electronic network that will allow the
company to be driven to offer access to needed information that included best practices, experiences
and skills. Buckman Laboratories endeavored
to have essential knowledge branched out to all
1,200 associates worldwide; a huge undertaking
but an essential belief and espoused theory that
took hold and evolved the organization. (ODell
and Grayson, 1998) This collaboration effort
made associates share the IQ of the complete
organization and thus pushed the Buckman

121

Organizational Culture

Knowledge network, named KNetix, exponentially into a system of competitive advantage. The
espoused theories efforts that govern Buckman
Laboratories are clearly spelled out in the ethics
given through their knowledge sharing oriented
culture. It is this collaborative nature that will
set the stage for true knowledge management to
occur and be successful. Without the culture to
set a mindset towards collaborative effort, the
organization becomes stagnant as groups now
become employees working inside informational
silos. Becoming consternated to share what they
know while holding on to knowledge-perceiving
it to be power. By building these communities of
practice, people gel into a coherent group geared
towards achievement of business goals through
sharing organizational interests and knowledge.
(Galbraith, Downey, and Kates, 2002)
When individuals perform differently than the
espoused theories they are exercising theories-inuse. While the theories-in-use are really how the
organization practices, it is the theory-in-use that
must be constructed through observable patterns
of interactive behavior. It is imperative that both
align through behavioral adjustments by players
inside the organization. (Argyris & Schon, 1996)
Theories-in-use generally bring trade-offs between
participants norms and values and the outlined
organizational culture. Inside the expressed differences lie action strategies and consequences.
Acceptable ranges must be set and enforced with
consequences giving through a coherent guide for
participant behavior. (Ravasi and Schultz, 2006)
The behavior of the individual members should be
governed by a set of formalized rules. Although
this forces a semi-rigid model, learning inside
that model will involve detection and correction
of error geared towards defining noted disparities
that will set in motion a level of inquiry towards
resolution of adjusted behavior. Unchecked
theories-in-use could further develop assumptions
that may lead to manifestations of new cultures.

122

When a solution to a problem works repeatedly,


it comes to be taken for granted. What was once
a hypothesis, supported by only a hunch or value,
comes gradually to be treated as a reality. We
come to believe that nature really works this
way. .What I am calling basic assumptions are
congruent with what Argyris has identified as
theories-in-use, the implicit assumptions that
actually guide behavior.Basic assumptions,
like theories-in-use, tend to be nonconfrontable
and nondebatable.Clearly, such unconscious
assumptions can distort data. (Schein, 1985, p. 18)
The assumptions will undergird values of the
organization and push the culture needle towards
new paradigms. The new paradigms may be
deleterious to what the organization is wishing
to accomplish.

Organizational Learning
Inside organizational culture are individual players
who are designing and molding the culture. They
interact with one another and actors outside of
the organization. The players renegotiate shared
understandings with one another on what the organization truly stands for. (Ravasi and Schultz,
2006) While performing in this manner, institutional claims and collective understandings are
being developed in a juxtaposition to the above
espoused theories and theories-in-use. As those
two concepts are set for larger groups, individuals
also set opposing cultural underpinnings within
themselves. Identity claims and identity recognition are important to understand as they outline the
culture at large through additional organizational
learning.
Rising competitive pressures have fueled
interest in organizational learning as a major determinant of sustainable organizational performance,
which suggests that to survive and thrive; firms
will need to learn at an increasingly rapid rate.
(Rousseau, 1997, p. 530) Many scholars today consider organizational learning imperative to stave

Organizational Culture

off outside pressure and to adapt to environmental


constraints all the while building the organizational
culture. (Barkai and Samuel, 2005) It is important
to understand that organizations learn in a similar
manner as individuals and process information in
order to produce knowledge. Organizations and
individuals both learn through applications that
are geared to offer changing states of information
into actionable learning. Change in states of raw
information can be accomplished through singleloop learning and double-loop learning.
Single-loop learning is mediated by organizational inquiry that attempts to connect detected error. The strategies will undoubtedly be modified to
align with corporate norms and values; in essence
always keeping them the same. The participant
sees small differences and makes changes based
on their experience and understandings. There is
nothing centrally wrong with this approach, but
it only involves auxiliary methods that do not
rely on understanding the underlying factors by
simply focusing on symptoms of the problems.
(Chinowsky & Carrillo, 2007) Organizations find
themselves programmed on a schedule of prior
capabilities by only monitoring environments
and drawing solutions from already developed
resolutions. The assumptions, values, and norms
of the group involved will generally stay the
same. Single-loop learning is sufficient where
error correction can proceed by simply changing
organizational strategies. (Argyris & Schon, 1996)
It is double-loop learning that is needed and used
by individuals or groups when they address the
desirability of the values and norms that govern
their theories-in-use (Argyris & Schon, 1996).
Double-loop learning will force the norms
and values of the corporation to be changed and
outlined with new strategies, always taking the
group forward to engage one another. Here participants examine the underlying factors and make
systematic changes to push the culture along to
new paradigms. Root cause to issues is sought
by viewing symptoms and underlying indicators
to larger problems, thus development a proactive

approach to issue resolution. Participants develop


understanding toward the assumptions, values,
and norms and change them according to larger
payoffs. Double loop learning becomes a reflection
of how participants inside the organization think,
showing their reasoning behind their actions. (Argyris, 1991/1998) This expounds the employees
theory in use and will make an employee aware
of the large inconsistency with their espoused
theories. Participants who discover their inconstancies with theory use normally follow a short
list of four basic core values when surrendering
to theories in use. That list will include:
1. To remain in unilateral control:
2. To maximize winning and minimizing
losing
3. To suppress negative feelings; and
4. To be as rational as possible-by which
people mean defining clear objectives and
evaluating their behavior in terms of whether
or not they have achieved them. (Argyris,
1991/1998, pp. 92)
Closed loop learning is destructive to the
culture and will always destroy attempts to build
knowledge sharing and knowledge development.
The situation in learning can be adjusted by
a change agent who sets change that inevitably
leads to additional modifications inside the organization. The properties of understanding the
situation are only transactional, as doubt and
fear provide supplementary understanding. This
will be followed by cyclical doubt and fear as
the participant changes and responds to the new
environmental ques. Dewey states Inquiry does
not merely remove doubt by recurrence to a prior
adaptive integration but institutes new environing conditions that occasion a new problem.
(Argyris & Schon, 1996, pp. 31) In the language
of Deweyan Inquiry, there is no such thing as
final settlement. Inquiry is to be tested by its
success in resolving a problematic situation and
by the value inquirers come to attribute to the

123

Organizational Culture

new problems their resolution creates. (Argyris


& Schon, 1996) The inquiry will aid in developing new skills and learning new ways to adapt to
challenges and new social situations. In addition,
those resolutions may require further adjustments
in the attitude and behavior of many people across
diverse lines such as political, ethnic, religious,
and socioeconomic boundaries. (Heifetz, Kania &
Kramer, 2004) Evolution in this manner is prevalent inside organizations today. Social media and
the front it develops and enables are imperative
to keeping the organization on track. It can only
be accomplished by well-developed and matured
organizational cultural settings.

FUTURE RESEARCH
Large strides are being made in business practices
today concerning monitoring of knowledge development, knowledge building, and knowledge sharing. Unfortunately, employees are not enamored
with the practices needed to obtain knowledge
sources and development. Surveillance tends to
undermine the very behavior that monitoring is
trying to induce or ensure. (Jarvenpaa & Staples,
2001, p. 175) With the onset of knowledge sharing,
surveillance systems must be adjusted to allow
such activities to exist. Although companies are
stressing to share they must make participants of
firm knowledge understand where the sharing
line is drawn and not fall into the trap of external
motivation. This is accomplished through internal motivation but hard to capture if the right
strategies arent engaged. Managers will need to
ascertain the proper motivational agent to make
the change long term and tie in with the evaluation
and compensation structure. (Davenport, De Long,
& Beers, 1998) If employees feel comfortable
and are rewarded to their satisfaction, knowledge
management can be successful. Employees will
again feel a part of the organization and identify
with the culture in place.

124

With the advent of knowledge management


systems and the ever increasing technological
advancements, organizations will need to set systems in place to acquire knowledge sharing across
many diverse ranges that include culture, distance,
and language. Organizations are increasingly becoming global; information can be lost bridging
the gaps. Managers must ask themselves if the
knowledge developed in one region is important
to another. If product lines are similar or customer
needs branch across different regions or expertise
is finally reaching another portion of a particular
region, that information must be shared. Regions
that have large amounts of cultural centers may
exist elsewhere and will need that knowledge expertise to engage. These are all reasons that must
be discussed when attempting to develop systems
to capture and build the knowledge.
A very large single factor to knowledge management destruction is the loss of organizational
memory. This occurs when employees decide
to leave an employer or are removed. Within
every employee movement, there is an amount
of knowledge escaping the firm. Employees
change jobs, change fields of expertise, and are
sometimes downsized in todays work environment. This makes it increasingly difficult for
employers to hold on to proprietary knowledge, let
alone the institutional expertise that is lost during
turnover. Whats more is a large amount of work
is outsourced to temporary employees. When a
temporary employee finishes an assignment, that
employee leaves with that piece of organizational
knowledge. (Stoyko, 2009) Employers must grant
access to organizational knowledge in order to advance the knowledge base but to capture what has
been advanced is difficult at best. Exit interviews
and confidentiality agreements attempt to keep
knowledge from escaping to external organizations
but a system to retrieve what was learned is still
needed. The organizational culture in place must
ensure that a knowledge-centric approach is used
and that a cooperative environment encouraged for
all employees. This sharing mentality may assist

Organizational Culture

with knowledge sharing even though an employee


knows that their employment has ended.

CONCLUSION
This chapter demonstrated that organizational
culture is an essential piece to life of an organization. It needs adjustment and alignment in order
to produce avenues towards knowledge sharing.
Knowledge sharing will bring about a specific and
superior competitive advantage once it is based
on the correct culture; one based on honest and
trust. CEOs like Bob Buckman of Bulab Holdings,
Inc. and Bill Gates of Microsoft knew this before
they began their journey towards developing a
knowledge sharing organization. Buckman, Gates,
and many others have seen an enormous return on
their investment to make their organizations more
aligned with what the customer wants and expects.
Culture will evolve through rounds of learning inside and outside of the culture. Managers
must take notice and direct the culture so that
knowledge management can succeed. Social
media that spawns the correct culture should be
implemented and used to build knowledge management correctly. Value benefits must be sought
as they direct structure and strategies towards a
successful knowledge management matrix.
We must remember as managers there is not
one culture best suited for an organization set on
building knowledge management capabilities.
What has been seen inside studies are certain
characteristics that can better enable an organization to achieve steps towards knowledge sharing. Firms employing champions of honesty and
trust are better suited to share knowledge with
departments inside their organization. Learning
throughout all levels of the organization must be
leveraged towards a knowledge sharing enterprise.
The learning must be measured and actions used
through social media to adjust the culture.

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128

KEY TERMS AND DEFINITIONS


Absorptive Capacity: The ability of the firm
to develop new knowledge based on the firms
original level of knowledge, the level of knowledge
a firm can absorb.
Artifact: A symbol or object that describes
an important aspect of an organizations culture.
Autonomy: The freedom an individual or
small group believes they possess to follow selfdirection, the level of empowerment felt by an
employee.
Communities of Practice: The ability of
one group to share a level of learning that builds
stronger cultural bonds.
Double-Loop Learning: Feedback loops that
are used in conjunction with inquiry that leads
the individual to change theories-in-use based
on observed effects of actions previously used
to resolve organizational issues.
Espoused Theory: The values we say we are
governed by.
Factions: Groups of individuals that share the
same or similar values and norms with respect to
aspects of organizational doings.
Institutional Claims: That is, explicitly stated
views of what an organization is and represents.
Organizational Learning: The process to
where individuals inside the organization learn
to address issues based on the culture of the organization, where the employee experiences an
issue and inquires on resolutions bounded by the
resources offered.
Sagas: A system of collective understanding
of unique accomplishment in a formally established group.
Single-Loop Learning: Learning that is only
concerned with changing the symptoms of the
problem, never looking deeper to the root cause.
Theory-in-Use: The actual values used and
displayed inside the organization.

129

Chapter 8

Social Leadership:

Exploring Social Media and the


Military A New Leadership Tool
Scott Campbell Mackintosh
Glengarry Group Consulting, Canada

ABSTRACT
This chapter will identify the militarys approach to social media and outline the security controversy it
views as an inherent issue associated with condoning and promoting the use of social media. It will then
discuss how that approach is evolving with the passage of time and the rapid adoption of social media
by society as a whole; examining the balance between security concerns and obvious organizational
benefits. In discussing social media as a vehicle of transformational leadership this chapter will reveal
untapped benefits of social media in a military context and examine where and how it could be adopted.
In closing this chapter will make recommendations, which would facilitate a better adoption of various
forms of social media by the military.

INTRODUCTION
Unlike its corporate counterparts the military
has unique challenges associated with benefiting
from the adoption and use of social media. While
corporations want to protect information related
to competitive advantage, unique processes and
other sensitive data that might aid their competitors - the military has a much graver concern as
it relates to the release of sensitive data. On the
other hand as the use of various social media

platforms and sites become more prevalent in


the ranks of the military, and controlling the restriction of the use of those sites becomes more
difficult, an understanding is developing that if
used properly social media can be an effective
tool for creating military advantage; specifically
in the areas of recruiting and public relations.
Reaching the generation Y or Millennium generation through social media platforms allows the
military access to the next generation of recruits.
With the advent of Facebook pages and Tweets, to
name just two of the many social media avenues,

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-203-1.ch008
Copyright 2011, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.

Social Leadership

the military has a vehicle to create a new face


from a public relations perspective.
Despite strong benefits the military still
struggles in trying to balance the potential gain of
this new media with the possible damage it could
do operational security (OPSEC). It is important
to note however that both of these consideration
focus on an external perspective; how social media
impacts what comes out of the military whether
that be a recruitment drive, an advertising or marketing push designed to change public opinion,
or in the worst case the release of sensitive data.
Little if any of the coverage or thought leadership
around social media and the military is giving any
consideration to how social media might be used
internally as a leadership tool.
With all of the promise that this concept
brings it does not come without its challenges.
The military cannot easily take full advantage of
social media, as do corporations, without some
special considerations. Social media has built a
new platform for what can be defined as social
leadership. For a corporation to foster an environment where leadership and the next great idea rise
from the shop floor or out of a bag in the mail
room clearly creates a competitive advantage.
Social knowledge supports the concept that good
ideas can rise from the bottom as easily as they
can slip from the middle or descend from the top.
A corporation willing to restructure traditional
top down leadership opens itself to a world of
possibilities and creates an environment where
people feel a sense of ownership and contribution. By creating such an environment what is, in
effect, happening is the democratization of social
knowledge. When you apply the same strain of
thought to the Military it is fair to say that the
military and democracy share allegiance only in
as much as one defends the other. The military,
while it defends democracy, need not incorporate
any of its principles in providing that defense; in
fact at its core it is an I say you do institution
that does not look to leadership from the bottom.
With the rapid adoption of social media there

130

now exists the opportunity for junior leaders, at


any rank, to provide social leadership that has
the potential of swaying opinion both inside and
outside of the military circle. The challenge is how
to harness and capitalize on that leadership without unraveling the very fabric of the institution.
The Military is going to have to accept, to some
degree, the democratization of social knowledge
in order to benefit from all it can bring as a new
tool in its leadership arsenal.

BACKGROUND
If Social Knowledge is the use of social media
to create, transfer, and preserve organizational
knowledge past, present, and future with a
view to achieving the organizational vision; it can
be can argued that the military is undergoing a
transformation with respect to its approach to this
new battlefront and what vision it wants to create.
In the early days of social media the military
treated it, as it does with all unknowns, solely as
a threat. There were, and to a large degree still
exist, serious concerns around social media sites
and operational security (OPSEC). Fears were
rampant that social media had the potential to
put sensitive information into the wrong hands.
In February of 2008 the Canadian Broadcast
Corporation (CBC) reported on the Canadian
Forces attempts to ban use, by members, of social
media sites such as Facebook citing concerns
around OPSEC. They reported on a memo issued
by DND to warn members of the dangers:
Al Qaeda operatives are monitoring Facebook
and other social networking sites
This may seem overdramatic [but] the information can be used to target members for further
exploitation. It also opens the door for your
families and friends to become potential targets
as well (CBC News, 2008).

Social Leadership

As the Canadian Forces continued to investigate and better understand the role of social media
within their ranks their posture eased. While there
are still concerns relevant to OPSEC and sites like
Twitter that ask the troublesome question what
are you doing now? the Canadian Forces have
begun to understand that the threat level is not
quite what initial assessments led them to believe.
The warnings eased to become reminders in places
like Regimental Routine Orders. In the case of
the Queens Own Rifles of Canada (A Reserve
Regiment stationed in Toronto), the Commanding Officer, used Routine orders published for
October of 2009 to caution soldiers on the use of
Facebook, and indicated that it was a violation
of military law to release data that identified
members of the Regiment that were currently
overseas or on work up training as a part of predeployment. It was a clear warning but did not
ban soldiers from participating in social media.
The Commanding Officer was taking a position
that was reflective of the Canadian Forces global
approach to social media in that it has released
a General Order that acts as an advisory to its
members on the sensitivity of certain types of
information that could be released through some
of the social networking sites.
The public affairs branch of the Canadian
Forces gave an on-line interview to CFAX on the
15th of August 2009 where the official summed up
the current position with respect to OPSEC and
social media by stating: We trust them to make
life or death decisions, we can trust them to tweet.
In August of 2009, the United Sates Marine
Corp took a much stronger stance when it banned
the use of all forms of social media as reported
by the Huffington Press:
The Marine Corps on Monday issued an administrative directive saying it was banning the use
of Marine network for accessing such sites as
Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. The order doesnt
affect Marines private use of such networks on
personal computers outside of their jobs the

services computer network already effectively


blocks users from reaching social networks,
officials said. Marine officials said part of the
reason for the new ban was to set up a special
waiver system that governs access for Marines
who need to reach the sites as part of their duties
(Jelinek, 2009).
The marine Corps stance on social media
mirrors that of many other branches of the US
Armed Services. Ann Peru Knab, an Associate
Professor with the University of Wisconsin and
a Public Affairs officer in the Air Force Reserve
asks the question, Isnt it ironic the most
technologically-advanced air force in the world
doesnt allow its public affairs officers to tweet
or recruit on official Air Force networks? It is
questions like that that has the Department of
Defense (DOD) reviewing its current policy on
social media with an eye to release a more balanced
policy. Heather Forsgren Weaver of the American
Forces Press Service reports that:
Defense Department officials plan to forward
a social media policy to the department leadership
that will balance the pros and cons of social
networking sites I think there are two issues that
need to be balanced, said Price Floyd, principal
deputy assistant secretary of defense for public
affairs. No. 1, you need to recognize the benefits
taking part in social networking sites and social
networking media give you, as well as the risks
involved.
Noah Shactman, editor of Wired magazines
National Security Blog Danger Room, noted
there are dozens of overlapping policies about
what various branches of the military are allowed
to do. The Marines, for example, recently banned
Twitter and Facebook from its official networks,
while the Army ordered that its networks be allowed access to the sites(Weaver, 2009).
While the military is beginning to realize
that with a potential employment base of young
soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen, who have
been raised in the digital generation, there is no

131

Social Leadership

effective way to stem the tide of social media


it still struggles with completely embracing it.
Concerns around OPSEC, while arguably best
handled through continuing education and leadership, are still present in mind. Ultimately it is
the responsibility of the individual members to
understand OPSEC concerns and not to publish
material that could jeopardize themselves, their
unit or mission integrity, but clearly the military
still struggles with balancing these two aspects
of their policy.
Even amidst all of the OPSEC concerns the
DOD and the military clearly recognize the benefits associated with using social media platforms
for recruitment, bolstering public relations, and
as a vehicle for delivering service and support to
members and their families.
When it comes to recruitment, the US Army
is, according to Suzanne Nagel, the Army Accessions Commands media and Web chief, fishing
where the fish are (Miles, 2009). The Army is
creating a presence in a growing array of social
networks in order to reach out and tap into an important demographic; 18 -24 year olds who might
be considering a career in the Army. For us, the
fish are the prospects -- the person who might be
interested in joining the Army says Nagel (Miles,
2009). While the Marine Corp is backing off
social networks and struggling to determine the
risk reward equation the Army is surging ahead.
Having established a corporate sponsor page on
MySpace which now has over 90,000 friends
the Army reaches young people who might not
otherwise find their way to www.goarmy.com.
They recognize that young people spend a lot of
their time on-line and a large portion of that time
interacting with a variety of social networks.
As an extended arm of its recruiting efforts the
Army reaches out to potential recruits through an
innovative blog www.armystrongstories.com; a
trail blazing initiative for the military and its use
of social media. This site encourages soldiers of
every rank to join as a blogger, tell their story, and
answer candid questions of the people thinking

132

of following in their footsteps. While the Army


monitors the traffic to ensure OPSEC and to make
sure that responses and commentary are neither
politically sensitive nor offensive in any way, they
leave their soldiers free to openly chat about Army
life with potential recruits. The site also offers
the reader the ability to share the post they have
just read through a simple click to Yahoo! buzz,
Facebook, MySpace, Digg, Del.icio.us, Newsvine,
StumbleUpon, and Twitter with their own social
network. A side bar provides direct links to the
four Army home pages, the three Army Facebook
initiatives and the new Army MySpace page.
Putting a human face on the military is the type
of institutional leadership that social media can
deliver. It allows the Military to use social media
as a tool to lead society to where they want them
to be thus gaining support for recruitment and
bolstering public opinion, and knowledge of the
military. The Army has had success with their new
social media initiatives well beyond their initial
expectations which were that of having an Army
fan pages. A quick tour of the Army discussion
board shows that well over 2,500,0000 people
have viewed the response to the general question
category about joining the Army. This is a recruitment tool like no other as it is a passive way of
getting up to the minute information. In the past
potential recruits would have needed to actively
call or visit a recruiting centre to get the type of
information that is currently available on-line
through this Army led social network.
The Armys social network initiatives are expending in scope for fiscal 2010 to better reach
future soldiers, but their current efforts are bridging
a gap between recruitment and public relations.
Influencing public opinion or the perspective the
public has of the military is clearly one of the
benefits of social media.
When examining how one sways public
opinion Psychological Operations (PSYOPS) has
traditionally been the driver behind the concept of
the winning of hearts and minds, but has often
been thought of as an element to be deployed

Social Leadership

only within a theater of war or conflict to deny


the enemy the support of the local population.
Through the institutional leadership potential of
social media PSYOPS can start to win the hearts
and minds of citizens in a way that has yet been
thought of. While this may be less important in
the United States, in countries like Canada where
military spending represents a disproportionately
small segment of the GDP it can have a critical
impact.
According to the founder of Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing:
One can argue that opening up the channels of
communication between the military and the
Canadian public would actually improve the
safety of our troops, since Canadians would understand the true nature of the role we are serving
in Afghanistan (which would quite possibly help
the troops attain more support, more equipment,
improved morale and heightened faith in their
military leaders) (Kujawski, 2008).
For the Canadian Military social media could
become a powerful tool in getting Canadians to
rethink the way in which they support the military. An increase in the popular support base for
the military changes the political landscape in a
significant and meaningful way. Examples of this
we have already seen in the political response of
the Ontario provincial government to the requests
of hundreds of thousands of Facebook users to
have the section of the 401 Highway, running from
Trenton to Toronto, designated as The Highway
of Heroes to honor the Canadian Soldiers who
have fallen in Afghanistan. The social response
was so strong it simply could not be ignored.
This just one of over 1100 Facebook groups with
the words Canadian Forces in the group title.
Social media has provided a very real conduit for
connecting soldiers and the public.
While the US Armed Services may not need
to rally public support to the same degree it too is
finding new ways to drive advantage through the

use of social media by recognizing social media as


a tool in the arsenal of service and support. Many
social networks are beginning to pop up in cyberspace where the raison dtre is purely to support
the member or the members family. While many
of these are not military led initiatives, service
personnel certainly glean tremendous value from
them and are becoming active participants in them.
From a civilian perspective, it may be hard to
understand the challenge of constant relocation
that comes with military service. Finding new
schools, identifying new organizations to join and
tracking down a safe neighborhood can be an
overwhelming process. As a result, many military
families turn to others in the military community
for information and resources (Findlater, 2009).
This led to retired Army Colonel Dan Kissinger,
founder of www.militaryavenue.com, to comment:
The interactive nature of the site is geared to assist younger military families who have grown up
with the Internet and rely on community forums
like this regularly for information exchange, Dan
Kissinger said. With this flexible and easily
updated platform, MilitaryAvenue.com is providing a much-needed resource for younger military
members accustomed to seeking information from
social media communities
Looking forward, he said he is hopeful that this
tool will set a precedent in how military members
access and share information with one another
(Findlater, 2009).

MAIN FOCUS OF THE CHAPTER


As the debate and deliberations around risk versus reward of social media adoption continue the
military establishment seems to miss the central
potential benefit of social media from an internal
perspective and that is allowing the development

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Social Leadership

of a truly transformational leadership environment. The interesting development relating to


the support networks that are popping up in and
around our military communities is that they are
not being driven and or supported by the military
establishment. Rather it is individual leaders such
as Dan Kissinger who are behind their development and growth. Individual leadership or what
can be identified as social leadership by its very
nature is transformational.
Developed initially for political leaders in the
1970s by James MacGregor Burns transformational leadership is defined as follows:
Leadership over human beings is exercised
when persons with certain motives and purposes
mobilize, in competition or conflict with others,
institutional, political, psychological, and other
resources so as to arouse, engage, and satisfy the
motives of followers... in order to realize goals
mutually held by both leaders and followers....
Transformational leadership occurs when one or
more persons engage with others in such a way that
leaders and followers raise one another to higher
levels of motivation and morality (Burns, 1978).
It can be argued that this is exactly what Kissinger is doing with militaryaveneues.com. While
there are many definitions of transformational
leadership, all of which vary to a degree, the
primary element associated with this style of leadership is the existence of a visionary leader who
inspires others to follow, and seeks to implement
positive change. The transformational leader has
passion for and an absolute belief in the vision.
The challenge for a transformational leader
is leading the change, staying visible, constantly
providing motivation and communicating with
their followers. This is where social media provides a new and exciting platform for the leader.
The followers have expressed an active interest
in becoming a part of the new vision and remain
engaged as long as the leader provides direction

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and motivation and an ongoing commitment to


change. An intelligent leader uses this new media
as a tool to unearth those potential followers in
ways they could not do otherwise.
In the military command and control is omnipresent in the minds of potential followers.
Members are given a specific path to follow
and this begins in basic training. You will wear
your uniform in a specified manner, you will
act according to a specified code, there will be
unilateral cooperation toward a common goal,
and you will execute your responsibilities as
directed. Nowhere in the corporate world do we
see such a rigid framework of execution or such
tight controls to ensure employees do not deviate.
As a result the militarys interest and adoption
of transformational leadership goes as far as to
promote vision and inspiration but reserves the
capability of implementing positive change on a
systemic level for those of senior rank.
For a junior officer to attempt to use social
media as a systemic transformational tool would
quite likely place that officer in a position of
receiving a reprimand, and or a cease and desist
order regardless of the merits of the vision.
The Canadian Forces has, for a number of years,
been investigating the potential incorporation, of
the principles of transformational leadership into
its doctrine:
Existing CF doctrine does not include any reference to transformational leadership. This is not
surprising, seeing that it was published in 1973,
before the emergence of the transformational
leadership theory. CF leadership doctrine has been
under review in recent years and a new manual is
expected next yeartransformational leadership
concepts will be included, along with important
elements of other leadership perspectives Bradley
& Charbonneau, 2004, p.12).
That begs the question of; To what degree
will the military commit themselves to transformational leadership?. True transformational

Social Leadership

leadership is closely related to the growth of


Tribes as defined by Seth Godin, an advocate of
leadership through the application of social media.
A Tribe is a group of people connected to one
another, connected to a leader, and connected to
an idea. A group needs only two things to be a
tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate
(Godin, 2008, p.1).
So if the emerging of these Tribes is not a
predetermined effort of the institution to win
hearts and minds, nor is it a segment of their
service and support leadership, what then is it?
It is the democratization of social knowledge. It
is the birth of social leadership. It is creating an
environment where individuals can lead their
Tribes. The benefits of transformational leadership in a corporation may be evident, but what
are the benefits to the military in a tight command
and control culture? The answer to that lies in the
military making a culture shift to some degree.
The move to social media has been somewhat
unsettling at the Pentagon, with its tradition of topdown authority, said Lcol Arata. In cyberspace,
where anyone can post feedback anonymously, the
musings of military supporters can appear alongside those of anti-war critics. This is a culture
shift for us, Arata said. When people exchange
thoughts, its not always rosy. Thats something
we as a culture have to get over (Staton, 2009).
Godin argues that through the many social
media technologies and opportunities available
there truly are no barriers to entry to lead a tribe.
This has to be a salient concern with respect to
social media for an organization whose grassroots
are founded in command and control. He goes on
to say that, Some tribes are stuck. They embrace
the status quo and drown out any tribe member
who dares to question authority and the accepted
order. Big charities, tiny clubs, struggling corporations theyre tribes and theyre stuck (Godin,
2008, p.5).

He makes the case that these tribes are just


movements waiting to happen but not so with the
military based upon their strong culture of command and control; movements dont just happen.
The highly leveraged tools of the Net make it
easier than ever to create a movement, to make
things happen, to get things done. All that is missing is leadership (Godin, 2008, p.5).
The primary argument the Godin advances is
that the rise of a multitude of new technologies
in the world of social media make leadership an
increasingly easy avenue to pursue. Social media
technologies have created an electronic soap box,
placed on the digital corner. It allows leaders an
avenue to pursue whose reach before would have
been the exclusive domain of traditional media,
be it print or broadcast. When you look back at
the methods leaders traditionally had to take their
ideas forward they were reserved to standing on a
soap box, grabbing the interest of print media, or if
ever so lucky broadcasting their message through
the networks; something typically reserved for
our political leaders or those with extremely deep
pockets.
Every one of these tribes is yearning for
leadership and connection. This is an opportunity
for you an opportunity to find or assemble a
tribe and lead it (Godin, 2008, p.8). If Godin
recognizes this opportunity it is not too far of a
stretch to believe that others who are charged
with examining the potential of social media have
understood this as potential of the technology.
It is even easier with social media to grab the
reigns of leadership as you can obscure yourself
in anonymity and dont need the skills associated
with the great orators of our time. Rallying people
to the cause, through a tremendous presence and
public speaking ability, is no longer a must have.
Rather all that is necessary is a clear purpose, a
sharp mind and wit, good content and a thought
provoking message. Mix in some skills with the
written word and you have a tribe.
Creating a tribe is not always that easy. As
Godin explains, We live in a world where we

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Social Leadership

have leverage to make things happen, the desire


to do work we believe in, and a marketplace
that is begging us to be remarkable. And yet in
the middle of these changes we still get stuck
(Godin, 2008, p.10).
Stuck is clearly where the military is today
with respect to its use of social media as an internal tool for leading change; for transforming
leadership. This speaks to the very heart of what
the military struggles with. If they wish to become
a tribe then they need to push, internally, a top
down adoption of some form of social media or
they stand to lose tremendous opportunity for
meaningful change. The real question is do they
have any interest in doing so?
The military has a couple of challenges, in
terms of refreshing the ideas at the top of the leadership pile, which do not restrict their corporate
counterparts. The first issue is that succession
planning comes entirely from within and arguably
for good reason. The military does not look to
the outside world for their next Chief of Defense
Staff; therefore the pool from which to select
your top leader is restricted to a few candidates.
Resultantly change and innovation is only going
to germinate from that pool of individuals. Unlike
a corporation that can hire a CEO with new and
innovative ideas, to some degree military leaders are very much cast from the same mold. This
gets us back to the concept of basic training and
the growth of uniformity. The other issue is that
the military adopts a rigid command and control
structure that does not promote or support the
concept that ideas that can have a meaningful
impact could float to the top from the bottom of
the pile. Ambitious junior leaders who attempt to
improve or modify the status quote are quickly
lectured on not working beyond their pay grade.
So the question then becomes how social media
can impact that?
To define the capabilities of social media
within an organization Godin outlines that social
media has made it exceedingly easier to become
a leader. He argues that:

136

For the first time ever, everyone in an organization - not just the boss - is expected to leadThe
very structure of todays workplace means that its
easier to change things and that individuals have
more leverage than ever beforeThe marketplace
is rewarding organizations and individuals who
change things and create remarkable products
and servicesIts engaging thrilling profitable
and fun.. Most of all, there is a tribe of fellow
employees or customers or investors or believers
or hobbyists or readers just waiting for you to
connect them to one another and lead them where
they want to go (Godin, 2008, p.12).
Corporations that are capable of making effective use of social media will benefit from the
knowledge and change in process that evolves
through these initiatives, however in its current
command and control environment the military
does not do collaboration well. There is evidence,
as we have seen with the Canadian Forces interest in transformational leadership, of the overall
interest in making collaboration work in the right
environment, but clearly not in environments
where lives are in the balance.
Godin argues that most of us shy away from
the leadership challenge because we have neither been ordained to lead nor do we poses the
authority to lead. He motivates his readers to cast
aside these traditional notions and step up to the
proverbial plate. But it is this very advice that the
military fears will take root with an application
of social media.
Thomas Barnett changed the Pentagon. From
the bottom. No, he wasnt on KP duty, but he was
close. He had no status, no rank he was just a
researcher with a big idea. Here is what the Wall
street Journal had to say:
Mr. Barnett overhauled the concept to address
more directly the post 9/11 world. The result is
a three hour PowerPoint presentation that more
resembles performance art than a Pentagon brief-

Social Leadership

ing. Its making Mr. Barnett, 41 years old, a key


figure in the debate currently raging about what
the modern military should look like.
Its simple really. Barnett led a tribe that was
passionate about change. He galvanized them,
inspired them, and connected them, through his
idea (Godin, 2008, p.20).
Barnett clearly provided his tribe with transformational leadership. He provided a vision and
had the passion to lead people toward a better
end. One would have thought that to be almost an
impossible task in an organization as monolithic
as the Pentagon, but it was accomplished.
Social media clearly has some concerns
around it as it relates to OPSEC and also offers
tremendous tools for the military to reach out to
a waiting audience, but these are the extrinsic
elements of social media. The intrinsic promise
of social media is the ability to move forward a
culture of transformation leadership. This is not
to say that transformational leadership would in
any way replace command and control; rather it
would augment it.

SOLUTIONS AND
RECOMMENDATIONS
While the DOD busies itself with the preparation of a new and balanced policy on the uses of
social media in the military it needs to recognize
that this policy will only cover half of the social
media paradigm; that which is outward facing. It
ought to, as should all militaries, look to a policy
that takes into account the leveraging of these
very same technologies for the betterment of the
inward facing components of the organization.
A simple example of how to manage the logistics of such an idea would be to take the concepts
and technology that fuel armystrongstories.com
and develop an intranet that allowed soldiers of

all ranks to join the net, subscribe to subgroups,


and begin to offer forth their experience and
knowledge. The Army would need to moderate
this in much the same fashion that they do with
their internet sites. Instead of being concerned
about external OPSEC violations and potentially
damaging topics or language they would be ensuring that an initiative of this nature didnt evolve
into a gripe board. Nor would this would not be
the place to discuss operation topics as not all
members of the military have the same security
clearances or work in the same trades. The Army
has made inroads into this arena with internal
sites such as Platoon Leader, which leverage
iLink, a social network analytics technology. The
purpose of this site is operational in nature and
is not systemic in that it allows a small subgroup
of professionals to communicate. While this is an
excellent example of social media at work inside
the modern military it is not institution wide, nor
is it transformational. It simply allows peers to
exchange experience and information.
The military needs a true social media project
that, while not casting aside the role of command
and control, relaxes the constraints in such a
manner that members of all ranks can participate
and bring forward ideas, solutions and experience. The rules governing insubordination and
OPSEC would still apply but gone is the concept
of working within your pay grade. Yes a Specialist just home from Afghanistan might just have
a solution that solves the Majors problem. In
todays military there exists no channel through
which that Specialist can pass on innovation. If
you believe that channel is an effective use of
the chain of command well you perhaps need to
visit one of the Armys recruiting sites because
you have not served. Creating this open highway
for innovation and ideas, while not disturbing the
operational theater or the much needed command
and control mechanism of the military is one of
the pure benefits of, and great promise of social
media that the military has yet to capitalize on.

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Social Leadership

REFERENCES
Alaimo, C.A. (2009, May 17). Facebook, Social
Media Infiltrating US Military. Arizona Daily Star.
Bradley, P., & Charbonneau, D. (2004). Transformational Leadership: Something New, Something
Old. Canadian Military Journal, 5(1), 714.
Burns, J. M. (1978). Leadership (1st ed.). New
York: Harper & Row.
CBC News. (2008). Military warns soldiers not
to post info on Facebook. Retrieved April 1, 2010
from http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/02/25/
facebook-military.html?ref=rss
Findlater, J. (2008). New Social Media Platform
Helps Military Members With Relocation. American Forces Press Service. Retrieved April 1, 2010
from http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.
aspx?id=52160
Godin, S. (2008). Tribes: we need you to lead us.
New York: Portfolio.
Jelinek, P. (2009). Marine Corps Bans Twitter,
Facebook, Other Social Media Sites. Huffington
Post. Retrieved April 1, 2010 from http://www.
huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/04/marine-corpsbans-twitter_n_250939.html

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Kujawski, M. (2008). Military warns soldiers


not to post info on Facebook. Retrieved April 1,
2010 from http://www.mikekujawski.ca/category/
statistics/page/3/
Miles, D. (2009). Army Leverages Social Media
to Promote Recruiting. American Forces Press
Service. Retrieved April 1, 2010 from http://www.
defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=55273
Online, C. F. A. X. (2009). Canadian Forces and
Social Media Make Interesting Bedfellows. Retrieved April 1, 2010 from http://www.cfaxonline.
com/?p=929
Stanton, J. (2009). The New Media and the US
Military. Retrieved April 1, 2010 from http://www.
digitalcommunitiesblogs.com/web_20_convergence/2009/05/the-new-media-and-the-us-milit.
php
Weaver, H. F. (2009). Defense Department Officials to Announce Balanced Social Media
Policy, American Forces Press Service. Retrieved
April 1, 2010 from http://www.af.mil/news/story.
asp?storyID=123169299

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Chapter 9

Foundations of Cross-Cultural
Knowledge Management
Nhu T. B Nguyen
Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Japan
Katsuhiro Umemoto
Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Japan

ABSTRACT
Although the term Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management (CCKM) appeared in the recent literature, no study has defined CCKM yet. This is the first study that discusses the process of cross-cultural
knowledge creation. Reviewing the literature on the relationship between cross-cultural management
(CCM) and knowledge management (KM), we found that the term CCKM is emerged from two streams.
The first stream used CCKM to describe KM in a cross-cultural environment while the second stream
explored culture as knowledge. Following two streams, we then define CCKM as a series of practices to
recognize and understand cultural differences to develop a new culture thereby adjusting to cross-cultural
environment. This definition helped us to examine the process of cross-cultural knowledge creation and
the role of leadership in this process. Not only contributing to developing KM in a new way that can be
applied to practice in utilizing and creating cross-cultural knowledge for KM activities, but this chapter
also may have many practical implications for leaders to manage effectively cross-cultural knowledge
of members in organizations.

INTRODUCTION
Knowledge Management (KM) has been developed since the early 1990s by both researchers
and practitioners. It is not surprising to KM researchers that the relationship between Knowledge
Management (KM) and Cross-Cultural ManageDOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-203-1.ch009

ment (CCM) started to be widely studied, since


globalization has become a keen interest in every
study on management. As such, we looked into this
relationship, and recognized that the term CrossCultural Knowledge Management (CCKM) can
be understood in two ways. In one sense, CCKM
is used to describe knowledge management in a
cross-cultural environment, such as how multinational companies manage knowledge processes,

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Foundations of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management

or how international joint-ventures share, acquire,


and transfer knowledge effectively. In another
sense, we explored the idea that CCKM may refer
to the management of cross-cultural knowledge
(Nguyen, Umemoto & Medeni, 2007; Nguyen &
Umemoto, 2009). To elaborate this new sense, we
explained the perception culture as knowledge by
discussing several cross-cultural perspectives,
including third culture, cultural synergy, cultural
hybrid, cultural change, cultural intelligence, cultural competence, cultural diversity, and cultural
knowledge, which match the concept of knowledge
in the literature (Nguyen et al., 2008).
With the perception culture as knowledge,
we adopted the term Cross-Cultural Knowledge
Management, to refer to the management and
the creation of a new culture adept at adjusting
to cultural differences. The question is raised:
What are the stages that characterize the process
of cross-cultural knowledge creation? To answer
this question, we suggested a theoretical model of
CCKM based on Martins (2002) cultural perspectives, including fragmentation, integration and
differentiation. We used the term acculturation
to describe the creation of a new culture, which
includes values added from two or various cultures, adapted to the cross-cultural environment,
as the last stage of the cross-cultural knowledge
creation process. We also explained why crosscultural knowledge creation is a spiral, from which
KM can be improved and enhanced. Moreover,
we also considered the further question whether
leadership has any role in CCKM, since leadership has an important role in both CCM and KM,
and CCKM is the combination of CCM and KM.
Therefore, we continue to seek answers to this
question. Using the literature of leadership, we
argued the influence of leadership on each factor of our proposed theoretical model of CCKM
(Nguyen & Umemoto, 2009).
Because of this books emphasis on social
knowledge, this chapter generally seeks to provide
a meaningful description of the positive position
of cross-cultural knowledge, as a kind of social

140

knowledge in the current context of globalization, which has become unprecedented. Recently,
people often work in international companies,
departments, and teams. We believe that this study
establishes the major foundation of CCKM, serving as a new discipline which is partially drawn
from constructs developed in the disciplines of
KM and CCM. It is important to develop this
discipline in understandable terms, illustrating the
nature of the cross-cultural knowledge creation
process and the roles of leadership in this process.

CULTURE AS KNOWLEDGE
As we explained, we base our understanding
of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management on
the perception culture as knowledge. To explain
this perception, we first explore the concept of
knowledge. At the same time, we review the
characteristics of the relevant concepts of crosscultural knowledge to propose which one of
these characteristics can be used to describe the
knowledge concept. Following that, we sketch
out our interpretation of culture as knowledge.

The Concept of Knowledge


The most important starting point for our discussion of the knowledge concept focuses on the
distinctions among concepts of data, information,
and knowledge. As one of the pioneers of the
stream which considered knowledge management
as the transformation of data and information,
Drucker (1993) explained knowledge as information effective in action. Data is defined as
the observations or the facts out of a context,
however, not directly meaningful. Information is understood as placing data within some
meaningful content, often in the form of a message. Following that, knowledge is recognized as
information put to productive use (Kakabadse
et al., 2003; cited in Geisler, 2008). Nonaka and
Takeuchi (1995) also explained knowledge from

Foundations of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management

information perspective by arguing knowledge


as a flow of messages. In addition, knowledge
is highlighted essentially related to human action, as they explained, knowledge is created
by that very flow of information, anchored in
the beliefs and commitment of its holder. Agree
with Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995), Choo (2006,
p. 133) also said that the transformation of information when a human actor forms justified, true
beliefs about the world. Also, Davenport and De
Long (1998) and Kwan & Cheung (2006; cited in
Balmisse, 2008) said that information could not
be transformed into knowledge without individual
actor who creates knowledge by adding value
to information. Therefore, the individual actors
play decisive role in distinguishing knowledge
from information (Adamides & Karacapilidis,
2006; Frank & Garnodi, 2005; and Davenport &
Jarvenpaa, 1996; cited in Balmisse et al., 2008).
Knowledge, in Tsoukas & Vladimirous (2005)
understanding, includes values and beliefs, and
is much related to action. According to Tsoukas
and Vladimirou, knowledge is the individual
capability to draw distinctions, within a domain
of action, based on an appreciation of context or
theory (p. 128). This understanding is to establish the concept of organizational knowledge.
Organizational knowledge, as the capability of
organizational members has been developed to
draw distinctions in the process of carrying out
their work, in particular concrete contexts, by
enacting sets of generalizations whose application
depends on historically evolved collective understandings. This concept follows Bells definition
which emphasizes that knowledge includes values
and beliefs, and connects to action. Knowledge,
according to Bell, (1999, cited in Tsoukas & Vladimirou, 2005), can be understood as the capacity
to exercise judgment of the significance of events
and items, which comes from a particular context
and/or theory (p. 120). This capacity demands
the individual ability of drawing distinctions and
the location.

Making the distinction between knowledge and


information, however, is imprecise, as information
is both umbrella term for all three, and also the
connection between raw data and the knowledge
eventually attained (Davenport, 1997, p. 8). Data,
in Davenports (1997, p. 9) definition, describes
simple observations of states of the world that
are easily structured, easily captured, often
quantified and easily transferred. Following
from that, information relates to data endowed
with relevance and purpose that requires unit of
analysis, needs consensus on meaning and human
mediation necessary. Although accepting knowledge as valuable information of human mind, including reflection, synthesis, and context, Geisler
(2008) claimed that the problem of the taxonomy
of data-information-knowledge fails to offer a
robust hierarchy of complexity or a tractable flow
from the elemental to the compound (p. 10). The
boundary between information and knowledge,
according to Geisler, is not clear, and we dont
know where information ends and knowledge
begins. Also, the definition of knowledge as a
variant of useful information, as Geisler (2008,
p. 11) argued, is not a distinct concept inasmuch
as information and useful information are similar
definitions of the same notions. It is unrealistic
to understand knowledge as the transformation of
information only, Geisler even believed, because
this understanding prevents knowledge from being defined as an independent entity, with its own
ontology (p. 12). To find the boundary between
information and knowledge, Liew (2007) suggested that we should know where information
resides. Liew indicated two different residences
of information: information resides in storage
media (from database) and information in the
human mind. The boundary between information
and knowledge in the first one, according to Liew,
is not difficult to see. But in the second one, this
boundary becomes obvious. Although several
studies on KM indicated that knowledge exists
only in human mind, fixing the boundary between
knowledge and information is a difficult task (Non-

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Foundations of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management

aka, 1994; Faley and Prusak, 1998; Tuomi, 1999;


cited in Hicks et al., 2007), Nissen (2002; cited by
Hicks et al., 2007) begins with the opposite idea
by showing that knowledge, from the side of the
knowledges creator, is to create information. The
critical first step in thinking about the hierarchy
between data, information, and knowledge from
the creators side was an appreciation. Specifically
in a cross-cultural environment, we think that the
creator is also the seeker in the same context. For
example, when we enter a different culture than
our existing culture, we are both the seeker and
creator in the process of creating a new culture
from two different cultures.
The relationship between information and
knowledge, as Aadne et al., (1999) emphasized,
should be seen in a specific situation, context, organization, or individual. In the context of handling
and processing information, according to Aadne
et al., (1999), knowledge is the result of information processing, among multiple interpretations of
information. This interpretation, in fact, was noted
by Probst et al. (1998) when they developed the
concept of organizational knowledge. Individuals may attempt to interpret their environment by
themselves. The individual knowledge structures,
which may be accordingly revised, are synthesized
to create shared beliefs. The routinization of those
shared beliefs is organizational knowledge. Also,
in the history of research on the interdependence
of information and knowledge, Wiig (2004) emphasized the different purposes of information
and knowledge. While the purpose of information
is description, because information is composed
of data in a specific situation, condition, context,
and challenge, or opportunity, the purpose of
knowledge is action, because knowledge includes
facts, perspectives and concepts, mental reference
models, truths and beliefs, judgments and expectations, methodologies, and know-how. Moreover,
knowledge is to understand how to juxtapose and
integrate seemingly isolated information items to
develop new meanings to create new insights

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with which to approach effective handling of the


target situation (Wiig, 2004, p. 74).
Focusing on knowledge from the information
perspective is admirably efficient and works quite
well in the existing literature, however, the lack
of consideration of knowledges functions may
not clearly show the facts as they are. Thus, to
define knowledge, Alvesson (2004) tried to look
into its functions, such as embracing information, knowing, explaining and understanding. A
similar definition of knowledge proposed by Liew
(2007) suggested that knowledge could be used to
recognize (know-what), to act (know-how), and
to understand (know-why). In general, a good
definition, according to Liew (2007), should
cover three necessary points including boundaries, purpose, and attributes or characteristics.
Understanding the definition of knowledge based
on the information perspective covers only the
boundaries of this definition. Therefore, it may be
worth mentioning its functions in conceptualizing
the term knowledge.
With the views of the knowledge concept
above, we recognize that the most important
aspects of understanding the term knowledge are
the ability of drawing distinctions and location,
developing new meanings, and creating new
insights rather than adding value to information.
More importantly, we take these views on the
significant reasons for our culture as knowledge
arguments in the next section.

Dimensions of Knowledge
Benefited from Polanyis conception of tacit
knowledge, Nonaka (1994) argued that knowledge should be epistemologically understood as
two distinct types: tacit knowledge and explicit
knowledge. While explicit knowledge is easy to
define, capture, and transfer in different environments, tacit knowledge is difficult to codify and
transfer, because tacit knowledge exists within
individual minds, and individuals do not recognize tacit knowledge in themselves. Although the

Foundations of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management

distinction between tacit and explicit knowledge


is well justified in the literature, Geisler (2008)
recently argued that it is at best an artificial differentiation. According to Geisler, knowledge is
the starting point of a flow in which knowledge
and information participate, not data and information. Considering sensorial inputs as the basic
units of knowledge, Geisler recognized that this
understanding is very different from the understanding of knowledge as the transformation of
information because sensorial inputs, as Geisler
(2008, p. 15) explained, as a cluster of human
beings five senses which are very crude forms
of human cognitive manipulation of inputs from
its internal and external environment. Sensorial
inputs are referred to as tacit knowledge. Consequently, Geisler assumed that all knowledge is
tacit. In fact, Tsoukas (2005) already noted the
reasoning behind the distinction between tacit and
explicit knowledge. According to Tsoukas (2005,
p. 122), the most explicit kind of knowledge is
underlain by tacit knowledge. Understanding tacit
knowledge as a set of particulars of which we are
subsidiary aware as we focus on something else
(p. 22), Tsoukas argued that tacit knowledge and
explicit knowledge are two faces of the same coin,
because he was persuaded that all knowledge has
its tacit presuppositions. This argument appears
particularly well suited for Cook and Browns
(2005, p. 56) understanding of knowledge, while
they discussed that the interaction between tacit
knowledge and explicit knowledge can often be
used as an aid in acquiring the other. In other
words, tacit knowledge can be used as an aid to
acquire explicit knowledge, and explicit knowledge also supports individuals in getting tacit
knowledge. Our aim here, it should be noted, is
not to reject the tacit-explicit distinction. Rather,
we try to develop an adequate understanding of
the forms of knowledge to place our conception
of cross-cultural knowledge in the context of these
forms in the following pages.
Other important dimensions of knowledge
should be noted. Garut and Nayaare (1994, cited

in Bhagat et al., 2008) proposed three dimensions


of knowledge, including simple versus complex,
explicit versus tacit, independent versus systemic. In the first dimension, simple knowledge
refers to little information and easy to transfer
while complex knowledge involves the amount
of factual information that may evoke more
causal uncertainties. The second dimension is
well known by the division of explicit and tacit
proposed by Nonaka & Takeuchi (1995). The third
dimension outlines the independent and systemic
character of knowledge. De Long & Fahey (2000)
distinguished knowledge into three types including human knowledge, social knowledge, and
structured knowledge. What individuals know or
know how to do refer to human knowledge including both tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge.
The relationships between individuals or groups
are to describe social knowledge. This type of
knowledge is largely tacit because it refers to our
ability to collaborate and develop transactional
relationships. The concept of social knowledge,
as used here, positions our chapter in the context
of this book since we seek to capture the ability
of adaptation of people when encountering a new
culture. The third type, structured knowledge is
explicit because it involves organizational systems, processes, rules and routines.

Knowledge Creation Theory


Knowledge Management is composed of various
disciplines, such as psychology, philosophy, and
sociology (Nonaka, 2005), or of various types
such as technology, economy, and behavior (Earl,
2001). According to Nonaka, all the works on the
creation, dissemination, and leveraging of knowledge to make groups or organizations successful
can be classified as KM.
The key idea of Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995)s
work is the process of knowledge creation, which
is described by SECI model (socialization, externalization, combination and internalization) (see
Figure 1). In the first stage, the socialization of

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Foundations of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management

Figure 1. SECI model (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995)

tacit transforms to knowledge that can be codified


and transferred from tacit to explicit in the second
stage called externalization. The third stage is to
combine different externalized knowledge from
the previous stage. This combination increases the
amount of tacit knowledge which will be internalized in organization. The socialization of this
new tacit knowledge is a virtuous cycle, which
is considered as a process of knowledge creation.
Given the strong influence of this model on
KM approach, Fink & Holden (2005, 2007) highlighted the weak play of SECI model in the context of the modern global economy. According to
Glisby & Holden (2002, 2005), all four modes of
the SECI model are culture-dependent and can
be regarded in cross-cultural context. Weir &
Hutchings (2005) argued that Glisby & Holdens
critique is correct, but they noted that SECI
model also contains valuable dimensions that do
have cross-cultural application. Gourlay (2006)
listed systematic criticism of Nonaka and
Takeuchis work, such as the lack of recognition
of differences between scientific knowledge and
corporate knowledge, as well as the conflicts

144

between different groups (Essers and Schreinemakers, 1997, cited by Gourlay, 2006). Gourlay
suggested that different kinds of knowledge are
created by different kinds of behavior, because
his study recognized that the distinction between
explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge of Nonaka and Takeuchis theory seems unclear. Gourlay
then highlighted know-how and know-that,
not only to well distinguish tacit knowledge and
explicit knowledge but also to include knowledge
of which the knowers can and do tell and are
consciously aware of. According to Gourlay, this
proposition corresponds to two modes of behavior, non-reflective and reflective behavior, which
can explain the consequences of knowledge, as
well as its degree and components. Rikowski
(2007) even argued that SECI model is not necessarily spiral. She explained that physical, political,
cultural and socio-technical barriers impede
knowledge transfer and creation throughout organization.
The emphasis on dimensions of knowledge
and knowledge creation theory as shown above
would be able to better lead us to understand what

Foundations of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management

kind of knowledge cross-cultural knowledge could


be, and to see if there is any relationship between
the cross-cultural knowledge creation process and
knowledge creation theory.

Relevant Concepts of CrossCultural Knowledge


Adler (2008) has summarized six different approaches of CCM research, including parochial,
ethnocentric, polycentric, comparative, geocentric, and synergistic research. Parochial research
is only applicable to management in one culture,
and yet it is assumed to be applicable to management in many cultures. Ethnocentric research finds
the answers for the question How can management research be standardized across cultures?
Polycentric research focuses on the application
of home country theories or models without using obtrusive measures. Comparative research
refers to studies comparing organizations in many
foreign cultures. Geocentric research looks into
multinational companies. Synergistic research
explores intercultural interaction within work
settings. In this section, we present several studies
referring to synergistic research, which explains
the positive points of culture. We have placed
this argument at the beginning of this section for
the reason that this way of thinking will strongly
influence our understanding of what cross-cultural
knowledge means.

Cultural Knowledge
Choosing the reflection of the underlying nature
of culture, Sackman (1991) used the cognitive
perspective of the conception of culture in organizations to explain cultural knowledge. Suggesting
that cultural knowledge is composed of dictionary
knowledge, directory knowledge, recipe knowledge and axiomatic knowledge, Sackman (1991)
argued that these types of knowledge correspond
to the characteristic questions what is, how
are things done, should and why things are

done the way they are. These types of knowledge


can also be combined to create experientially
developed theory for understanding, explanation,
and prediction, according to Sackman (1991).
Cultural knowledge, as Sackman explained,
has two main aspects: aspect of collectivity and
aspect of learning capacity. The aspect of collectivity emerges in different socialization processes:
within the family, growing up in a specific region
and country, belonging to a certain ethnic group,
and having experienced a certain kind of education and professional training when individuals
have learned and acquired over the years. The
aspect of leaning capacity describes the importation of cultural variety into the organization by
new members. Sackman also emphasized that the
requirements for obtaining cultural knowledge
include mutual understanding, communication and
effective coordination in a social system. Not only
Sackman (1999) saw cultural base from the cognitive perspective, but also Weisinger and Salipante
(2000) considered cultural knowledge as stable
and cognitive, as residing in the individuals mind,
and believed that training people in the cultural
assumptions of their counterparts would lead to
more effective cross-cultural interaction. However, their results showed this view to be naive.
Also using the term cultural knowledge,
OSullivan (1999) explained this term by presenting cross-cultural competence from a fresh
perspective, by distinguishing between stable and
dynamic cross-cultural competencies. OSullivan
(1999) looked at Black and Mendenhalls (1990)
work on three dimensions of cross-cultural
competencies, including the self-maintenance
dimension, the relationship dimension, and the
perceptual dimension. Based on existing literature, OSullivan considered cultural knowledge
as a type of knowledge with various aspects
such as a self -maintenance competency (factual
knowledge), a cross-cultural relationship competency (conceptual knowledge), and perceptual
competency. As Johnson et al., (2006, p. 532)
noted, OSullivan perspective suggests that all

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Foundations of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management

employees are not equally trainable, and that there


are some individuals who may lack the personality traits necessary for them to acquire certain
knowledge and skills.
Further, Hofstede (2001) divided cultural
knowledge into two different types: culturalgeneral knowledge and culture specific. Culturegeneral knowledge focuses on awareness and
knowledge of cultural differences. Such culture
investigates the participants own mental makeup
and how it differs from that of others (Johnson et
al., p. 530). Culture specific focuses on specific
knowledge about another culture.

Third Culture
Figure 2 shows third culture building model, presented by Casmir (1993). This model focused on
the successive phases of performance beneficial
to both the individual and those with whom she
or he is involved in interactions and also showed
all internal and external aspects of the human
experience (p. 420).
Although there have been some works on third
cultures (e.g., Useem, Donoghue and Useem,
1963, cited in Casmir, 1993), as Casmir recognized, these works focused on the interactions

between sojourners and members of their host


cultures only. Casmirs work, interestingly, leads
to new, effective and mutually acceptable and
beneficial third cultures through interactive intercultural processes. His third culture model is
built based on cooperative, non-threatening,
mutually beneficial interactions (p. 417). This
model, accordingly to Casmir, helps individuals
adapt and adjust to their environment.
Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars (2000)
didnt use the term third culture but they suggest
that when two cultures join together, they manage
cultural polarities and values dimensions that selforganize in systems to generate new meanings
(p. 27). These new meanings are also considered
third culture as Casmirs definition.
Creating a third culture is also highlighted by
Graen & Hui (1996) as important in the relationship between two culturally different companies.
A third culture, according to Graen & Hui (1996),
is a bridge of two different cultures that may bring
compromise between different cultural practices.
Graen & Hui showed two kinds of differences in
cultural values, nominal differences and systematic differences. Nominal differences, as Graen &
Hui explained, are related to specific phenomena
like language and customs. Systematic differences,

Figure 2. Third-culture building (Casmir, 1993, p. 421)

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Foundations of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management

according to Graen & Hui, involve fundamental


values, beliefs and philosophies of social regulation. Following that, Graen & Hui suggested
that managing cross-cultural partnerships should
manage both nominal and systematic differences
in these partnerships. Graen & Hui also noted
differences between the third culture and two
cultures. Two cultures, as Graen et al. (1996)
explained, occur when the two cross-cultural
business partners remain strangers to each other
in the business relationship. Stranger, is not understood in the usual way, but in Graen & Huis
study, means that these business partners do not
have a quality relationship with each other. The
third culture, according to Graen & Wakabayashi
(1994), is created to bridge and transcend the two
cultures. The third culture helps both partners to
find ways to come up with organizational practices and management techniques and programs
that are acceptable to members of both cultures.
The major characteristics of the two cultures
and the third culture description are shown in
Table 1. Graen & Hui (1996) stated that there is a
mutual disinterest and a cover-your-ass (CYA)
kind of attitude in two cultures relationships.
This relationship is interested in short term only,
so the business partners will compete and confront
each other.
Based on a legal contract, the two cultures
style may lead to contract breach. A win-lose
situation is described in the relationship between
Table 1. Characteristics of Two Cultures and
Third Culture
Two culture

Third culture

CYA

Trust

Compete

Co-operate

Confront

Accommodate

Short term

Long term

Legal contract

Handshake

Contract breach

Mutual obligation

Win/lose

Win/win

business partners. A third culture, as Graen & Hui


(1996) explained, highlights mutual respect and
trust. That leads to sharing long-term business,
co-operation, and accommodation among partners. They should handshake and follow mutual
obligations to make profits by win-win collaboration.

Cultural Synergy
According to Moran, Harris and Moran (2007),
the term synergy is not easy to understand.
Synergy, as they explained, involves a belief that
we can learn from others and others can learn
from us (p. 227). Following that, they described
cultural synergy as a dynamic approach to managing cultural diversity in a variety of contexts
(p. 228). Synergy in Schmidts (2006) view is a
cooperative or combined action that can occur
when diverse or disparate groups of people with
varying viewpoints work together. Its power is
to solve problems, as Surowiecki (2004; cited in
Schmidt, 2006) explained that groups are often
smarter than the smartest people within them.
Adler (2002) was probably one of the pioneers
to emphasize this view, and according to her,
cultural synergy can find new solutions to solve
problems that leverage the cultural differences
among all cultures involved while respecting
each cultures uniqueness (p. 127). Adler (2002)
focused on describing the situation from each
cultures perspective, culturally interpreting the
situation, and developing new culturally creative
solutions (p. 118) of cultural synergy.
One further work on cultural synergy is worthy of note, because it argued that synergy is a
dimension of organizational culture. Harris (2004)
explained the term synergy as a dynamic process
related to adaptation, learning and action. This
process suggests that the total effect is greater
than the sum of effects when acting independently, which can create an integrated solution.
It also should be noted that this does not signify
compromise, but it improves and enhances the

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Foundations of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management

potential of members by facilitating the release


of team energies.

Cultural Hybrid
Most works on cultural differences underline that
a combination of different cultures must result
in culture shock, friction and misunderstanding.
Differently and more interestingly, Holden (2002)
introduced a new view of CCM which focuses on a
new cultural hybrid. Holden (2002) took a simple
example from the combination of two chemicals,
and then applied this combination to CCM.
C1 + C2 = C3
C1, C2: any given cultures except each other
C3: a new hybrid culture
With this description, Holden starts to glimpse
reflections of CCM as a form of KM:
CCM is the management of multiple cultures
and among organizations, involving processes
of knowledge transfer and organizational learning. These activities facilitate the functioning of
networks which are composed of an inconceivably
large number of overlapping social and information networks linking people and organizations
worldwide. The core task of CCM is to facilitate
and direct synergistic action and learning at
interfaces where knowledge, values and experience are transferred into multicultural domains
of implementation (p. 58-59).
This research of Holden (2002) is highly appreciated by Claes (2004) because it emphasized the
dynamics of cultural differences. Hybrid culture,
at group level, has been explained by Earley &
Gibson (2002, p. 113), as a new shared understanding of team member status, team processes,
role expectations, communication methods, and
so on. Such new understanding occurs from team

148

member interaction. Earley & Gibson also identify


homogeneous and heterogeneous teams, which
have impact on the formation of a hybrid team
culture. While members in homogeneous teams
can easily find existing commonalties to create a
hybrid team culture, heterogeneous team members
take time and efforts to form such new culture.

Cultural Change
Despite a number of studies on different values
of cultures and their impact on behavior, there
have been few studies on the influence of cultural change on change, as well as on the change
of culture itself, as Erez and Gati (2004) noted.
Culture can be changed, according to Erez and
Gati, when it interacts with another culture via
international trade, migration, and invasion. Erez
and Gati (2004) also indicated that countries
having high individualism, low power distance,
and low uncertainty in national culture will adapt
to the global work environment better than the
other countries. Of course, this may explain why
employees having experience in working for
multinational companies adapt to cross-cultural
work environment and maintain and develop a bicultural identity better than others. Actually, when
globalization is increasing, it is easy to recognize
that national cultures can also be influenced by
global culture. For example, Dalton and Kennedy (2007) indicated that high power distance
in Romania may be reduced by the impact of
globalization and the adoption of Anglo-American
values in management.
Notwithstanding, one important note by Chan
(2002) is that most studies on cross-cultural organizational research focused on measurement and
dimensions on cultural differences only. Another
way of looking into cross-cultural studies is related to the issues concerning cultural change,
according to Chan (2002). The reason why cultural
change is not widely studied is the difficulty of
changing a culture (Plessis, 2006). In fact, change
is a constant feature of all cultures as well as

Foundations of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management

a result of both internal and external forces


(Ferrano, 2006). The mechanisms of change are
explained by Ferrano as discovery and invention in
a specific culture. As a result of borrowing from
other cultures, cultural change is understood by
Ferrano as cultural diffusion. Each individual in
a culture, according to Ferrano, can learn and get
ideas from other cultures, while the background
and time of each individual are always limited. The
process of spreading of cultural items from one
culture to another is also the process of cultural
diffusion. This process is described by Ferrano as
a selective process, because when one culture got
another cultures idea, they does not accept everything indiscriminately. Consequently, we can
understand why cultural differences exist forever.
Changing is not only a need but also a power
of organizational culture according to Cameron
and Quinn (2006). They emphasized that culture
change is an appropriate response to rapid change
in the external environment, such as the explosion
of technology as well as of information.

Cultural Intelligence
In order to understand why some people are more
adept at adjusting to new cultural surroundings
than others (p. 59), Earley, Ang, & Tan (2003)
developed and presented a theoretical model of
cultural intelligence.
Both process and content features are described in this theoretical model. Three facets
of this model, including cognitive, motivational
and behavioral facets, are elements in the general
structure. When an individual has a high level of
cultural intelligence, they will have cognitive skills
that help them function effectively in a new culture.
In addition, an individual with a high level of
cultural intelligence always has a motivational
impulsion to adapt to a different culture. Also,
such people have adaptive behaviors to deal with
a new culture. Specifically, two general categories
of knowledge are also presented in this model:
declarative knowledge refers to information

about the characteristics of an entity and procedural knowledge focuses on the way something
functions (Earley, Ang, & Tan, 2003, p. 86). This
theoretical model, however, emphasizes more
learning than doing (Johnson et al., 2006). The
behavioral component of Earleys (2002) cultural
intelligence, according to Johnson et al, (2006, p.
537), appears to be concerned more with acquiring and practicing appropriate behaviors than with
applying them in real-life.

Cultural Competence
Lustig and Koester (1996) discussed competence
and intercultural communication, and established
boundaries between culture and communication.
Culture, as Lustig and Koester (1996) defined, is
composed of a learned set of shared perceptions
about beliefs, values, and norms, which affect
the behavior of a relatively large group (p. 35).
Following this concept of culture, they developed
the definition of intercultural communication
as a symbolic process in which people from
different cultures create shared meanings (p.
42). In this definition, the degrees of difference
between dissimilar cultures is also pointed out, to
lead to their understanding of intercultural communication as a symbolic process in which the
degree of difference between people in large and
important enough to create dissimilar interpretations and expectations about what are regarded as
competent behaviors that should be used to create
shared meanings (p. 50). The trait, perceptual,
behavioral, and culture-specific approaches are
used to explain the understandings of intercultural competence. The trait approach is used to
identify the kinds of personality characteristics
in individual traits that allow a person to avoid
failure and achieve success in intercultural encounters (p. 55). As they explained, this approach
emphasizes flexibility in thinking, psychological
and social adjustment in ones own culture and
relativistic values. The perceptual approach is used
to identify clusters of attitudes or perceptions

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Foundations of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management

(p. 56). These attitudes or perceptions, in fact,


include the ability to reduce psychological stress,
to communicate effectively and to improve interpersonal relationships. Intercultural competence
should include these abilities. The behavioral
approach is used to identify specific communication behaviors during intercultural interactions,
because the thoughts of people as well as their
actual actions are studied in behavioral approach.
The culture-specific approach is used to identify
culture-specific perceptions and behaviors, because peoples adaptation to the specific rules
of interaction in a particular culture is explored
in the culture-specific approach. In Lustig and
Koesters work the components of intercultural
competence, such as context, appropriateness
and effectiveness, knowledge, motivations, and
actions, are also investigated. These components,
as Lustig and Koester suggested, can be used to
improve intercultural competence.
Having a different view, Chiu et al., (2005)
explained cultural competence as distributed
knowledge. Interestingly, the interconnections of
individuals may produce, distribute and reproduce
learned routines which are called organized knowledge. Culture, in Chiu et al.s (2005) explanation,
is to designate a coalescence of this organized
knowledge. In fact, this argument followed Barths
(cited in Chiu et al., 2005) work which investigated
how we make up our experienced, grasped reality
and create learned routines of thinking, feeling and
interacting with other people. Knowledge, according to Barth, provides people with materials for
reflection and premises for action. These actions
then become knowledge to others. In addition,
they argued that these learned routines are not only
personal knowledge in the heads of individuals
but also are shared, albeit incompletely, among
a delineated population.
On the way to finding an adequate model for
Cross-Cultural Competence, Johnson et al., (2006)
looked at the knowledge dimension, the skill dimension and the personal attributes dimension as
three components in Cross-Cultural Competence.

150

Based on the existing literature, such as Imahori


and Lanigan (1989) and Redmond and Bunyi
(1993), the knowledge dimension of cross-cultural
competence is composed of the knowledge about
culture, knowledge of language, and knowledge
about the rules of interactions (p. 530).

Cultural Diversity
Focusing on learning the dynamics of diversity, as
well as developing competency to manage diversity in organizations, Cox (2001) investigated how
to create an effective multicultural organization.
Considering diversity as any difference between
people such as the difference in gender, in race,
in national origin, in birth rates, in work groups,
in organizational level and in work specializations (cited in Nguyen et al., 2008, p. 111), Cox
(2001, p. 3) defines this term as the variation of
social and cultural identities among people existing together in a defined employment or market
setting. However, Cox also noted a problem of
diversity: potential performance barriers caused
by conflicts and misunderstandings in communication. Importantly, many opportunities can be found
when using diversity in organizations. Cox found
that diversity can add five values to organizations.
Having a broader and richer base of experience
from diverse groups, as well as improving the
competence of analysis in decision-making group
is the first value that organizations may get from
diversity. Organizations also improve and enhance
creativity and innovation through diversity, such
as high levels of innovation from the diversity in
a workforce (Kanter, 1983, cited in Cox, 2001),
or a resource if skillfully managed (Iles, cited in
Cox, 2001). The third value that diversity adds to
organizations is organizational flexibility. As Cox
explained, diversity promotes the competence of
languages and increases flexibility of thought of
members in organizations, which can make the
organization more flexible. The fourth value added
to an organization is human talent emerging from
diverse workers. Finally, diversity can improve

Foundations of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management

marketing strategy for an organization. Beyond the


above advantages of cultural diversity recognized
by Cox (2001), Iles (1995) also highlighted the
power of cultural diversity by focusing on learning to work with differences.
In this section, we have reviewed cross-cultural
perspectives couched in several terms, such as
hybrid culture, cultural synergy, third culture,
cultural knowledge, cultural competence, cultural
intelligence, cultural change and cultural diversity, which have resulted in the adaptation and
adjustment process. This process has been given
typically the term acculturation (Berry, 1980,
1990; Bourhis et al., 1997; Kim, 2005). Importantly, these characteristics match the concept of
knowledge that we have discussed as earlier. Our
explanation of the perception culture as knowledge is summarized in Table 2.

TOWARDS AN UNDERSTANDING OF
CROSS-CULTURAL KNOWLEDGE
MANAGEMENT
Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management (CCKM)
has been noted as a poly-semantic term, because
this term has been explored in two ways of understanding (Nguyen & Umemoto, 2009; Nguyen,
Umemoto & Medeni, 2007). First, CCKM can be
understood as knowledge management in a crosscultural environment. Second, this term may be
considered as the management of cross-cultural
knowledge. This exploration can be summarized
in the Figure 3.
Following the above understandings of CCKM,
the term Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management refers to the management and the creation
of a new culture adept at adjusting to cultural
differences. As such, CCKM is defined as:

Table 2. Cross-cultural perspectives on reflection as knowledge


Cross-cultural Perspectives

Characteristics

Knowledge

Cultural Knowledge

aspect of collectivity and the capacity of leaning


through mutual understanding, communication,
and effective coordination in a social system,
aspect of self-maintenance, relationship and
perceptual competencies

Hybrid Culture

synergistic action and learning created in the


processes of knowledge, values and experience
transfer among people of different cultures

Cultural Synergy

new culturally creative solution which are developed from cooperative and combined actions

the individuals competence of adding value by exercising judgment


and drawing distinctions among
information from a particular context, of creating of shard beliefs, of
recognizing (know-what), of acting
(know-how), understanding (knowwhy), and of developing new
meanings to create new insights
corresponding to a target situation.

Third Culture

a new culture which is created from cooperative, non-threatening, mutually beneficial


interactions

Cross-Cultural Competence

the abilities of identifying clusters of attitudes


or perceptions, such as reducing psychological
stress, or improving interpersonal relationships

Cultural Intelligence

the adaptation and adjustment to a new cultural


environment

Cultural Change

learn and get ideas from other cultures

Cultural Diversity

adding values in decision making, promoting


creativity and innovation improving cognitive
flexibility, or attracting, retaining, and using the
skills of diverse workers

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Foundations of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management

Figure 3. An understanding of cross-cultural knowledge management

Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management (CCKM)


is composed of a series of practices to recognize
cultural differences, using awareness and understanding of cultural differences to develop a
new culture adept at adjusting to cross-cultural
environments. This new culture improves and
enhances Knowledge Management activities
(Nguyen, Umemoto & Medeni, 2007, p. 35).

In this definition, the positive views of cultural


differences are pointed out. Also, the potential of
culture as a knowledge management tool is well
noted. Especially, this definition is a combination
of two disciplines, CCM and KM. While Fink &
Mayrhofer (2001) said that other disciplines may
provide additional insights on the importance of
the interdisciplinary challenge, we believe that
this definition of CCKM highlights the additional
insights of CCM in KM, as well as KM in CCM.

Figure 4. Proposed theoretical model of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management

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Foundations of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management

A THREE-PERSPECTIVE
CULTURE APPROACH
Here we present Martins (2002) three perspectives
of culture, including integration, differentiation
and fragmentation. Fragmentation, integration and
differentiation are used to describe the phenomena
in an organizational culture. The fragmentation
perspective describes such phenomena as ambiguity, uncertainty, confusion and contradictions
of values and beliefs existing in an organization.
The differentiation perspective emphasizes phenomena of inconsistency caused by the separate
and distinct values of sub-cultures in organization.
The integration perspective refers to phenomena
of stability, coherence, and consensus, such as an
oasis of harmony and homogeneity of values and
beliefs shared throughout an organization.
These three perspectives of culture, as Martin
pointed out, can be taken together. Martin even
clearly argued that taking three perspectives
together is much better than using only one
perspective, because one perspective supplements the others, and all three were useful for
the analysis of studies on organizations. All these
above perspectives, as Martin said, may be well
applied to describe fundamental processes of other
disciplines. In fact, some studies already used this
three-perspective theory of culture to examine a
variety of contexts, such as the birth of a culture
in a company or the relationship between culture
and innovation (Martin, 2002), linking these three
cultural types to the cultural change processes
(Meyerson & Martin, 1987), or applying this
three dimensional framework to build a culture
cube (Payne, 2001).

THEORETICAL MODEL
OF CROSS-CULTURAL
KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT
Based on three perspectives of culture, we propose
some ideas for a theoretical model of Cross-

Cultural Knowledge Management (see Figure 4).


Our reasoning goes as follows: the starting point
in cross-cultural knowledge creation begins with
fragmentation. We assumed that the ambiguities
and uncertainties as the result of cultural differences may occur at first when individuals or organizations encounter a new culture. To overcome
such ambiguities and uncertainties, people tend
to arrive at harmony and homogeneity of that
new culture by sharing values and beliefs. This
stage refers to integration, which helps people
of a culture to better understand other cultures.
Although people have tried to integrate to a new
culture, the differences within departments and
professions (sub-cultures) in an organization
will appear then. These differences are in the
differentiation process. After that, individuals
and organizations adjust and adapt to the crosscultural environment by creating a new culture,
which adds values from two or various cultures.
We used the term acculturation to describe these
adjustments and adaptations, as the last stage of a
cross-cultural knowledge creation cycle.
After a cross-cultural knowledge creation
cycle, however, other ambiguities and uncertainties will appear, because as we noted in the previous section, cultural differences exist forever. This
means that cross-cultural knowledge creation
starts a new cycle. Therefore the process of crosscultural knowledge creation should be understood
as a spiral.

Linking a Three-Perspective
Culture Approach to SECI Model
This part explains some linkages between three
perspectives of culture and SECI model. This
will clarify the impact of each perspective on the
knowledge creation process.
As we presented in the previous section, Ikujurio Nonaka and his colleagues (Nonaka, 1991;
Nonaka et al., 1994; Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995)
created a dynamic model to describe the creation
of knowledge in organizations in the early 1990s.

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Foundations of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management

As is now widely accepted, this model has become


one of the most cited theories in the knowledge
management literature (Choo & Bontis, 2002, p.
12). There have been some studies which noted
that the SECI model can not be applied to a crosscultural environment. For example, Glisby &
Holden (2002) have argued that Nonaka & Takeuchis four modes are culture-dependent, each
reflecting well-documented aspects of Japanese
organizational behavior (cited in Fink & Holden,
2007). Glisby & Holden then highlighted that
SECI model cannot be applied to cross-cultural
knowledge creation related to non-Japanese protagonists. Our proposed model of cross-cultural
knowledge creation, in Figure 4, suggests that
the process of creating cross-cultural knowledge
goes through four stages, including fragmentation,
integration, differentiation, and acculturation.
Interestingly, we found out that fragmentation,
integration and differentiation have special links
with conditions that Nonaka and Takeuchi noted
for their knowledge creation model.
Therefore, in this section, we will show interesting connections between CCKM and SECI
model (Nguyen, 2007). First, we go beyond the
content of socialization and focus on the way in
which integration is related to its content. While
the characteristics of the socialization process
describe the same value-sharing of members in
an organization, it is closely related to the integration perspective which also involves an oasis of
harmony and homogeneity of values and beliefs
shared throughout an organization. Moreover, they
said that the stage of externalization is integral,
because the externalization of knowledge often
helps people to see that the same phenomena
can be viewed in many different and contrasting
ways. This means that the integration stage in
our proposed model of CCKM may contribute
to the socialization and externalization stage of
SECI model, accordingly.
Second, Nonaka and Toyama (2004, p. 99)
also portrayed the externalization process through
dialogues, contradiction between ones tacit

154

knowledge and the structure, or contradictions


among tacit knowledge. These contradictions
are often caused by the differences of sub-cultures
such as different jobs and different levels which
are described as the differentiation stage in our
suggested model of CCKM presented above.
Additionally, in the process of conversion of tacit
knowledge into explicit knowledge, Nonaka emphasized the use of metaphor. Metaphor, as Nonaka
explained, is a distinctive method or perception,
an effective way for individuals grounded in
different contexts and with different experiences
to understand something intuitively through the
use of imagination and symbols without need
for analysis or generalization. These different
contexts and different experiences are exactly
described in the differentiation stage of the above
proposed CCKM model. Thus, differentiation may
also be included in the contribution of externalization in Nonaka & Takeuchis knowledge creation
model as well.
Third, we will look at the conditions for organizational knowledge creation suggested by Nonaka
and Takeuchi. Here, the conditions for promoting
the knowledge spiral are fluctuation and creative
chaos. As Nonaka & Takeuchi explained, when
there is a fluctuation in organization, all members
may face a breakdown of routines, habits or
cognitive frameworks. However, this breakdown,
according to Nonaka & Takeuchi, is a necessity
for organizations, because it is considered as a
means of social interaction helping us to create
new concepts. Besides, top management also
uses chaos to give employees a sense of crisis
as well as lofty ideal. In Japan, for example,
Japanese top managers usually use the ambiguity and creative chaos in their companies. While
fragmentation perspective has been seen as a
treatment of ambiguity, we can consider its role
in enabling conditions improving and enhancing
the process of knowledge creation.

Foundations of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management

Leadership through a LookingGlass of the Three-Perspective


Culture Approach
Leadership appears in any books focusing on KM,
and also plays an important role in CCM. The
emergence of CCKM from the combination of
CCM and KM suggests that we should think about
the role of leadership in CCKM, since leadership
has effects on both KM and CCM (Nguyen &
Umemoto, 2009). Beyond the creation of crosscultural knowledge based on three perspectives
of culture, the influences of leadership on each
of these perspectives will be found in the existing
literature of leadership.
First, the influence of leadership on fragmentation will be discussed through its impacts on
ambiguities and uncertainties. In efforts to create visions and values through communication,
according to Charteris-Black (2007), leadership
usually uses metaphors as verbal strategies. Metaphor, as Charteris-Black explained, represents a
linguistic result from the shift in the use of a word
or phrase from a context or domain in which it is
expected to occur to another context or domain
where it is not expected to occur, thereby causing semantic tension (p. 42). This means that an
implied change in the sense of words when we
use metaphor is effective not only in communicating leadership as Charteris-Black described,
but also in creating a network of new concepts
(Nonaka, 2002). Moreover, using metaphor can
help personal inner-visions to become closely
connected with outer social realities. Although
using metaphors can not avoid barriers of religions
and politics, it could satisfy the psycho-emotional
needs of followers (Charteris-Black, 2007). Especially, as a distinctive method of perception
(Nonaka, 2002), metaphor can create single and
contradictory things and ideas from two different
and distant areas of experiences. In the previous
section, we also mentioned Nonaka & Takeuchis
discussion about the role of metaphor in creating
a new meaning that can become a grand concept

for organizations. In addition, chaos and fluctuations are considered as other necessary conditions
for knowledge creation in his very famous SECI
model of the knowledge creation process. According to Nonaka & Takeuchi, ambiguities can
lead to a reflection or questioning of values for
top management.
In order to emphasize the importance of managing uncertainty, Hogg (2001) even said that
managing uncertainty is necessary to maintain
and strengthen leaderships position. If leaders
have a clear prediction on a prototype, they will
control uncertainty well. But Hofstede (2001)
found a correlation between national culture and
uncertainty. There are two types of countries,
according to Hofstede: countries with high uncertainty avoidance and low uncertainty avoidance.
People in countries with low uncertainty avoidance
easily accept uncertainty, because they consider
uncertainty as an inherent aspect of life and take it
in their stride (Fatehi, 2008). Consequently, leadership can use democratic-participative management
when working in these cultures. People in these
cultures normally want to have more autonomy and
freedom, so they should be able to participate in
decision-making. Thus, giving followers enough
direction and instruction to adequately achieve
their task is the way leadership can deal with
uncertainty, according to Fatehi. In fact, Grote
& Weichbrodt (2007) have already studied how
to manage uncertainty at the organizational level
by suggesting using flexible routines. Their study
indicated that if leadership uses many tight rules,
it will not help individuals in the organization
adapt to a new environment. Besides, Cyert and
March (1963, cited in Hofstede, 2002) proposed
a way to manage uncertainty at the organizational
level through building decision rules based on
short-run reaction to short-run feedback, and
imposing plans that can be made self-confirming
by some control device. These rules and plans
should be built independently, without prediction
of uncertain future events. We suggest that this
uncertainty management may be applied to the

155

Foundations of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management

fragmentation stage in cross-cultural knowledge


creation process. For example, using short-run
rules for new members from other countries,
or other organizations, or other departments, or
other groups, may help them integrate to the new
environment. Also, short-run rules help leadership
get feedback quickly. As a result, leadership can
establish new rules and instructions based on this
feedback. Therefore, using short-run rules and
instructions is a good strategy which meets the
requirements of change.
Second, we demonstrate the impact of leadership on the integration of both individual and
organizational level. When Cox (2001) described
five components of a model for cultural change
including leadership, research and measurement,
education, alignment of management systems,
and follow-up, he emphasized the important
role of leadership for cultural change in an
organization. Leadership should have management philosophy, vision, organization design,
personal involvement, communications strategy,
and strategic integration. Among these important
characteristics of leadership, having strategic
integration is recognized by Cox as one of the
most decisive conditions for successful change
in an organization. To have a good strategy of
integration, leadership should explain the existing
diversity in an organization. As already mentioned,
diversity is an organizational potential, but also
increases difficulties in task coordination (Zenger
and Lawrence, cited in Tsai, 2005). To help their
employees understand the impact of profitability
on diversity, leadership should take the initiative
to send the message with conviction. Conviction,
however, should be built based on trust. Without
trust, leadership and employees/followers will fail
in building strategy integration. In fact, there have
been many studies which emphasized that trust is
an effective factor for leadership to build effective relationships among members and units in an
organization (Hitt et al., 2003; Grisham, 2005). In
addition, the dimension of individualism versus
collectivism in national cultures also decides

156

the integration of members in an organization.


For example, it may take time for people having
individualistic national culture to integrate to the
new environment because they are not familiar
with collectivist culture. In contrast, it is easy for
people having a collectivist culture to integrate
into new organizations.
Third, we will add two main points focusing
on the influence of leadership on differentiation.
First, we discuss how cultural differences should be
recognized by leadership. As Adler (2002, p.107)
pointed out, the recognition of cultural differences
does not mean judging people from one culture to
be better or worse than those from other cultures.
Judging cultural differences, according to Adler (p.
107), may cause inappropriate, offensive, racist,
sexist, and ethnocentric attitudes and behavior.
Also, Adler has not appreciated cultural blindness. As Adler explained, when North American
managers usually blind themselves to gender,
race, sex, and ethnicity and judge employees
only based on professional skills, the confusion
of the recognition of cultural differences with
the judging of those same differences may occur.
Understanding cultural differences is suggested
as one of the best recognitions of cultural differences. Understanding cultural differences helps
managers limit the problems caused by cultural
diversity. Also, understanding cultural differences
helps leadership appreciate the opportunities of
diversity. The opportunities of diversity, for example, potential performance and added values
such as problem solving, creativity and innovation, organizational flexibility, human talent,
and marketing strategy have been discussed in
previous cultural diversity section. Interestingly,
the problems of understanding real diversity
lead to understanding cultural differences, as Cox
recognized that when new employees go to a new
organization or group, they tend to modify their
attitudes and behaviors to achieve acceptance
of the majority of members in that organization
or group. Employees usually feel pressure to
conform to existing organizational culture.

Foundations of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management

This characteristic is similar to the integration


stage, as we explained in our proposed model of
cross-cultural knowledge creation process; people
always try to integrate when they enter a new
environment. In this context, integration is seen
as a hidden step in coping with cultural differences. The important task of leadership is to see
and recognize the hidden attitudes and behavior
of employees, when they try to modify or hide
these hidden attitudes. To do so, leadership may
express their appreciation of cultural differences
to their employees by showing that cultural differences can contribute to the development of
their organization. In such a case, employees are
ready to express their differences.
Not only playing an important role in managing
cultural differences, leadership also creates differentiation in organizations. Of course, leadership
can not create differences in national culture if
their organization is not a multi-national company.
However, while culture can be seen at multiple
levels such as national level, organizational level,
professional level, occupational level, and group
level, leadership can create different professions,
different occupations, different departments, and
different groups. Creating cross-functional teams,
for example, is also a type of creating differentiation in an organization. Specifically, a new
culture can be created from the diversity of crossfunctional teams (Parker, 1994). Also, there exists
another type of creating differentiation, which
proposes shared leadership strategy. Leadership
is divided by Cox et al., (2003) into two types,
appointed or emergent team leader, and shared
leadership. Shared leadership, as the team itself,
allows every member in groups or organizations
to participate in decision-making. As a result of
the age of complexity in technology, this strategy
improves and enhances mutual adjustment of all
members who have different positions in organizations (Kruglianskas and Thamhain, 2000, cited
in Cox et al., 2003).
Although differentiation can be a business
advantage, it can cause conflicts for organiza-

tions. In Bryants (2003) work, differentiation is


divided into two types: hyper-differentiation and
de-differentiation. While hyper-differentiation
brings alive contradictory tendencies, de-differentiation may involve bridging the relentless
fragmentation of recursive specialism (p. 7). This
is also the reason why leadership should control
the measurement of differentiation, because the
distance between collaboration and conflict is very
slight. Day and Lance (2004) already noted that
forcing the organization or group to integrate and
coordinate may increase differentiation. Not only
differentiation, but also integration should be well
controlled, as Day and Halpin (2004) explained,
as they are considered to be the core components
of complexity.

CONCLUSION
This chapter provides fresh insights into the significant existence of CCKM. We advance several
concepts in CCM and relate them to the concept
of knowledge in KM to develop the perception
culture as knowledge. This perception thus
defines our understanding of CCKM as the interaction between CCM and KM. Most importantly,
this chapter develops the essential elements of a
theory of the cross-cultural knowledge creation
process focusing on four stages: fragmentation,
integration, differentiation and acculturation. In
particular, this chapter also shows the role of
leadership in this process. We hope to further
conceptual and empirical research in this very new
field. In particular, this new field will provide a
framework when studying social phenomena in
organizations.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT
This work is supported by Japan Society for the
Promotion of Science (JSPS).

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Foundations of Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management

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KEY TERMS AND DEFINITIONS


Cross-Cultural Knowledge: A new culture
adept at adjusting to cultural differences.
Cross-Cultural Knowledge Management:
A series of practices to recognize and understand
cultural differences to develop a new culture
thereby adjusting to cross-cultural environment.
Culture as Knowledge: The dynamics of
cross-cultural perspectives match the concept of
knowledge.
Fragmentation: Phenomena of ambiguity,
confusion, and contradiction in organization.
Integration: Phenomena of stability, coherence, and consensus in organizations.
Differentiation: Phenomena of inconsistency
caused by subcultures in organizations.

Section 3

Social Knowledge Tools,


Techniques, and Technologies

164

Chapter 10

Becoming a Blogger:

A Social Knowledge Experiment


Stefania Mariano
New York Institute of Technology, Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain

ABSTRACT
This chapter contributes to social knowledge theory and provides a practical approach for managing
social media. This study investigates how knowledge is created, transferred, and shared in social media
and proposes a way to manage social knowledge. Qualitative research methods are applied to collect
data through in-depth individual semi-structured interviews, think-aloud protocols, focus groups, and
document analysis. Data analysis is pursued with the use of the qualitative software package Atlas.ti.
This study contributes to our understanding of how a community of people creates, transfers, and shares
knowledge in a virtual social environment, i.e. a Web log. Findings revealed that knowledge transfer
was the primary knowledge process in the management of the Web log and highlighted common issues,
concerns, and suggestions on how to develop a more effective virtual social environment. Limitations in
the creation, transfer, and sharing of knowledge are discussed, and recommendations on how to improve
a Web log are provided for practice.
The outcomes of the blog open a gateway for new venues in my personal knowledge [Participant 2]

INTRODUCTION
Web logs (or Blogs) are tools to foster collaboration and interactions among users. The first blog
appeared on the Internet in 1997 (Lyons, 2005)
even though online personal diaries have emerged
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-203-1.ch010

on the World Wide Web since 1994 (Sullivan,


2005). Along with MySpace, Facebook, YouTube,
Flickr, and Wikipedia, Web logs are considered
as the backbone of Web 2.0, a term coined to
embody the new Internet advancement where
knowledge is socially constructed and distributed.
The social construction of knowledge is recognized as a source of competitive advantage by

Copyright 2011, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.

Becoming a Blogger

many organizations (Davenport & Prusak, 1998;


Dixon, 2000). These organizations have started
using social media, e.g. wikis for collaboration,
and social networking tools for connecting people,
to develop flexible and intuitive solutions and
facilitate participation and communication. The
use of social media has contributed to shift the
need-to-know organizational paradigm to the
need-to-share organizational paradigm (Girard,
2010) increasing the importance of a collaborative
working environment where individuals feel free
to disseminate what they know for the benefit of
the organization. Despite this increased interest in
the use of social media, however not all organizations have achieved the desired level of knowledge
sharing nor have they identified an effective way
to manage social knowledge.
The purpose of this study is to provide empirical
support for the management of social media. This
study explores how a community of people creates,
transfers, and shares knowledge in social media,
i.e. a Web log which is defined as a site about a
person or company that is usually updated daily
(Robbins & Judge, 2010). The goal is to develop
a conceptual framework on the management of
knowledge in social media. Another purpose is
to provide evidences about factors influencing
the process of knowledge creation, transfer, and
sharing in Web logs, and recommendations for
the design and implementation of Web logs in
organizations. In this study social knowledge
is defined as the use of social media to create,
transfer, and preserve organizational knowledge
with a view to achieving the organizational vision (Girard, 2010). In the following sections,
the theoretical basis regarding knowledge management, social media, and social knowledge is
presented. Follows a comprehensive description
of the qualitative methodology used to collect and
analyze data. Findings are shown by means of
quotations from interview transcriptions derived
from the use of the qualitative software package
Atlas.ti. Theoretical and managerial implications

regarding the results of this study are presented


and future research is discussed.

Research Questions
The research questions follow from the purpose of
the study. They were designed to provide enough
direction without being too restrictive. They are
as follows:
1. RQ: How are social media used to manage
knowledge?
2. RQa: What are the main impediments to the
management of knowledge in social media?
3. RQb: What are the recommendations to the
management of knowledge in social media?

RELEVANT LITERATURE AND


SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Knowledge Management, Social
Media, and Social Knowledge
Academic and practitioners have long been considering knowledge creation (Nonaka, 1994),
transfer (Van Wijk, Van Den Bosch & Volberda,
2003), and sharing (Hayes & Walsham, 2003) as
crucial knowledge management processes for the
success of contemporary organizations (Davenport
& Prusak, 1998; Dixon, 2000).
Research has extensively investigated the
role of individuals (Cook & Brown, 1999) and
information technology (Alavi & Tiwana, 2003)
in the management of organizational knowledge
and has pointed out the formal and informal aspects of the management of knowledge to make
individual expertise available to the other members
of the organization (Davenport & Prusak, 1998;
Snowden, 2003). The attention has been focused
on the informal interactions of individuals (Nonaka, 1994), and on the creation of communities
of practice (Brown & Duguid, 1991; Hornett &
Stein, 2009; Dalkir, Bilodeau, & Wiseman, 2004),
or social networks (Cross, Parker, Prusak, &

165

Becoming a Blogger

Borgatti, 2001), and has investigated how knowledge is collectively created and shared by these
individuals. A large body of research has explored
the role of information technology to facilitate
those interactions and to help the implementation of formal procedures of knowledge sharing
(Alavi & Tiwana, 2003), especially in large and
multi-unit organizations where knowledge can
be dispersed (Olivera, 2000). The use of centralized electronic repositories, internal Wikis, and
knowledge drives has become a way to increase
organizational knowledge and improve the capacity of employees to share their individual expertise.
This increased understanding of the critical role
of knowledge collectively developed through the
use of online information technology tools has
motivated the need of further investigations on
the role of social media, e.g. wikis for collaboration, and social networking tools for connecting
people, to better understand how those tools can
be managed to facilitate the creation, transfer,
and sharing of social knowledge. Research has
highlighted the importance of social media to
support the creation, transfer, storage and retrieval
of knowledge, the so called knowledge processes
(Alavi & Tiwana, 2003), to contact a knowledge
source (Zack, 1999), or to transfer knowledge
from one allocation to another (Alavi & Tiwana,
2003), with periodical updates of the tool by the
members of the organization (Orlikowski, 1996)
who generally contribute by presenting their
own perspectives (Dixon, 2000). To entice the
post of individual contributions, research has
found that external rewards (Constant, Sproull,
& Kiesler, 1996) help appealing employees and
has highlighted the unwillingness of individuals
to update a shared database in the absence of external rewards (Goodman & Darr, 1996). Finally,
a body of research has started investigating the
role of Web logs (Blogs) in the creation, transfer,
and sharing of knowledge and has pointed out
format and structure of a Web log, providing
recommendations on blogging (Wyld, 2008),

166

and contributing to the academic and practitioner


debate on social knowledge.

Significance of the Study


Research shows that the study of social knowledge is useful because it clarifies the problem of
knowledge transfer (Van Wijk et al., 2003), contributes to a better understanding of the relationship
between information technology and individual
knowledge (Alavi & Tiwana, 2003), and increases
the awareness of stored organizational knowledge
(Alavi, 2000; Huber, 1991).
Since the study of social knowledge in social
media is an under-researched topic, there are some
unanswered questions and information gaps. This
study is relevant for both practitioners and academics. Practitioners would be assisted by this research
study in the identification of gaps that reduce the
sharing of organizational knowledge, especially
in large and multi-unit organizations (Olivera,
2000). They would be assisted in reducing cycle
time and cost to develop routine solutions (Walsh
& Ungson, 1991) and in promoting organizational
best practices (Szulanski, 1996). This study also
provides insights for academics and contributes
to the debate on knowledge creation, transfer,
and sharing in social media through the collection of empirical data on social knowledge. Such
knowledge will be useful to those interested in a
new theoretical approach connecting individual
knowledge to social knowledge, as well as to
those studying social media for the management
of organizational knowledge.

METHODOLOGY
This study approaches the research project from
a grounded theory perspective and uses qualitative research methods to investigate the creation,
transfer, and sharing of knowledge in social media.
Participants of this study are eight graduate
students of a School of Management based in the

Becoming a Blogger

Kingdom of Bahrain, Middle East. Four participants are female. They represent the ideal sample
as at the time of the study they were all attending
a graduate course in Knowledge Management
and were familiar with knowledge processes,
information technology repositories, and managerial concepts. A theoretical sampling strategy
was used as participants were chosen based on
their ability to contribute to an evolving theory
(Creswell, 1998, p. 118). They were involved
in this social media project from March 2009
through May 2009. The project focused on the
concept of knowledge visualization and required
each participant to update posts, comment on the
other participants posts, and manage the Web log.
Data are collected through individual interviews as
the primary data source (Merriam, 2001), and are
triangulated (Creswell, 1998; Stake, 1995) through
think-aloud protocols, focus groups (Creswell,
2003), and documents analysis (Creswell, 1998;
Merriam, 2001). To minimize potential bias and
ensure the validity of the study, member checks,
and informant reviews (Creswell, 2003) are also
conducted. This study follows ethical policies.
Both goals and purposes of the study are explained
to participants and information gathered during
the study is held confidential. Participants in
individual interviews are provided with a copy
of the interview transcription and opportunity
to comment or modify the transcription is given
to them.

DATA COLLECTION AND


SOURCES OF DATA
Data were collected from multiple sources and
this ensured the trustworthiness of the study
(Creswell & Miller, 2000). A questionnaire was
submitted to participants after the first week of
the project. Questions were formulated to collect
the preliminary experience of participants and to
point out major constraints and advantages of the
use of a Web log. Eight individual interviews and

eight think-aloud protocols were then conducted.


Individual interviews lasted an average of 30 minutes and were conducted face-to-face. Followed
a 20 minutes think-aloud protocol. Participants
were asked to think out loud as they went through
the posts on the Web log to probe the opinions
expressed during the interview session and to
collect their additional feedback and comments.
Individual interviews and think-aloud protocols
were all recorded and transcribed. Toward the end
of the study the interview log (Merriam, 2001)
format was used to confirm tentative findings of
the study. This interview format was used only
in two cases. Individual interviews and thinkaloud protocols were completed over a two weeks
period. At the end of the study a focus group
was organized with all participants. Questions
intended to discover the overall experience of
participants. Questions were related to knowledge
creation and sharing, evolution of the Web log,
personal contributions and collective interactions,
advantages and disadvantages of the use of a Web
log. The two hour focus group session was also
recorded. As part of document analysis, data were
collected through participants personal notes,
email correspondence between the researcher
and the participants, tracks of online comments
and individual contributions, and a PowerPoint
document made by all participants containing
their own opinions about strengths/weaknesses,
areas of improvements and recommendations,
and positive aspects of the Web log. Finally, data
were collected through informal conversations
and small talks held during the project meetings.

DATA ANALYSIS
Data analysis is conducted using research protocols, i.e. contact summary forms, and document
summary forms (Miles & Huberman, 1994). The
qualitative data analysis software package Atlas.
ti is used to analyze interview transcriptions.
The use of Atlas.ti and the interpretation of

167

Becoming a Blogger

protocols (Miles & Huberman, 1994) provided


a means to understand data. Data resulted in
aggregations and themes (Miles & Huberman,
1994) and offered insights to understand: (i) the
creation, transfer, and sharing of knowledge in a
Web log; (ii) impediments to the creation, transfer,
and sharing of knowledge in a Web log; and (iii)
recommendations on how to manage knowledge
in a Web log.

preliminary findings and provide feedback and


comments. This session helped to validate the
findings and contributed to the interpretation and
data analysis processes. In addition to such a formal review, constant and informal member checks
were made during the data collection process.

Coding and the Use of Atlas.ti

The management of knowledge for these participants consisted of three independent but
iterative processes connected to online activities,
i.e. knowledge creation, knowledge transfer, and
knowledge sharing. Knowledge creation regarded
the elaboration of a post; knowledge transfer was
facilitated by the use of images and videos, the
implementation of formatting styles, the use of
labels and tags, and the organization of ex-ante
training and ex-post monitoring by a web master;
finally, knowledge sharing activities included the
use of feedback and comments, and the implementation of chat systems and discussion forums
to facilitate the interchange of ideas, thoughts,
and individual knowledge. This study found that
participants had a general preference to apply
pull format while uploading a new post, pulling
in an audience, e.g. they would locate a link to
an external video into the elaborated post. Oppositely, while retrieving knowledge from someone
elses post, they would prefer the knowledge to
be visually represented in a push format, e.g.
the video had to be embedded into the post to
avoid the connection to an external webpage. To
attract the visual attention of users, a post had to
be short and simple, elaborated, categorized and
summarized by the author for an easy retrieval,
regularly updated, and professionally formatted.
In this section findings are presented with
respect to the two secondary research questions.
They are discussed in separate paragraphs to
highlight the main impediments in the use of a
Web log, and the participants recommendations

Reviewed copies of individual interviews and


think-aloud protocol transcriptions were entered
into the qualitative data analysis software package Atlas.ti. A code-start list of key words
based on research questions, assumptions, interview questions, problem areas and key variables
(Miles & Huberman, 1994) was developed. This
code-start list contained not more then a dozen
of codes, as suggested by Miles and Huberman
(1994). The coding process pursued the framework
of grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967), and
involved a variety of coding techniques available
in Atlas.ti, i.e. open coding, in-vivo coding,
code-by-list, and quick coding. As part of data
analysis, memos and comments were used to
capture reflections and ideas of the researcher
and became part of the interpretation process
(Creswell, 2003; Miles & Huberman, 1994). A
counting analysis (Miles & Huberman, 1994) of
the responses was also frequently made to see
what you have (Miles & Huberman, 1994, p.
253). This collected information was summarized
and detailed described and helped the interpretation of findings.

Informant Reviews
Informant reviews (Creswell, 2003) were conducted toward the end of the study to discuss
preliminary findings with all participants. A PowerPoint presentation was shown to all participants
in a two hours meeting. They were asked to discuss

168

FINDINGS AND INTERPRETATION

Becoming a Blogger

on how to improve the effectiveness and efficiency


of a Web log.

Research Question A:
Impediments to Social Media
When asked to list the primary impediments to
the management of the Web log, participants
mentioned three main issues that emerged during
the development of the project: Lack of time, lack
of understanding, and lack of motivation.

Lack of Time
Lack of time was a major barrier in the management of the Web log. Participants claimed to
have busy working schedules, restrictions in the
access to the Web log from their workplace due to
corporate security policies, and complained about
the project length which was too short to let them
completely get to know the tool.
In general, participants encountered difficulties to coordinate their working schedule with the
management of the Web log which in turn leaded
to an approximated selection of contributions to
upload. Participants tended to use Internet search
engines to find the knowledge to be uploaded, and
only in exceptional cases they decided to upload
their own notes and elaborations, pictures and
draws, new ideas, personal reflections or personal
statements:
The timeframe that I had didnt allow me to have
further time to go and search maybe for a better
thing or for a different thing, so it is a general
thing that I decided to select and upload [P1]
This also happened to those participants who
had the access to the Web log either at night time
or early in the morning before going to work due
to Internet restrictions in the workplace. The lack
of time at work forced participants to manage the
Web log in their own free time overlapping family
or private needs. Although the Web log software

was considered as user friendly, the short length


of the project imposed participants to selectively
use it, avoiding complex features or merely restrict
its use to basic features. As a participant claimed:
I am assuming that a lot of people dont have
time so you are not able to contribute positively
as I would assume [P3]
Along with the approximated selection of
contributions, the lack of time also impacted
the quality of posts. Some participants did not
elaborate their contributions and generated long
posts which appeared difficult to be read. This
generated information overload and forced the
other participants to skip those posts and focus
on shorter ones. Long posts were blamed as much
as those posts containing only links to external
websites without the inclusion of a description
of the related content. This problem especially
emerged when participants were asked how to
improve the Web log. For example, one participant
pointed out the following:
I think again by contributing positively and
focusing more on the content...instead of just saying that this is the video here because again I
think the idea of the blog is to understand what it
is in there and if you have more links to the blog I
think it becomes time consuming and defaces the
purpose of it [P4]

Lack of Understanding
In the view of the participants of this study, lack
of understanding was another major impediment
to the management of the Web log. Two main
issues emerged: (1) knowledge visualization, the
topic of the Web log, was not always discussed
in participants contributions; and (2) the Web
log benefits were not clear at the beginning of
the project.

169

Becoming a Blogger

In general, participants expressed a preference


to upload posts related to various topics and did not
focus on a single topic. The Web log was seen as
a place to share opinions and comments related to
several topics. From the interview transcriptions, it
emerged that participants either expressed a clear
preference for multiple topics or pointed out the
fact that contributions to the Web log were not
always related to knowledge visualization which
may be seen as a general attitude of participants
to avoid the focus on a single topic. Participants
expressed a preference to comment posts related
to class discussions to get feedback from the other
students. From a more general view point, this may
represent an attitude to use social media to debate
on topics that may emerge from the workplace
on a daily basis instead of focusing on strict and
predetermined themes.
When asked the reason why they would select and post a specific contribution, participants
claimed they would do it according to their own
interest in the specific subject area or for the benefit of the other participants. Only in two cases
participants uploaded posts related to their job or
to promote their own company. In these cases, the
participants own interest and area of expertise
influenced the selection of the topic. In general,
this may be seen as a way to show case the talent
of participants and contribute to the development
of social media with personal tacit knowledge.

Lack of Motivation
From data analysis, it emerged that participants
lacked of motivation while contributing to the
development of the Web log. When asked why
they uploaded a certain post, participants claimed
they would do it for personal reasons, i.e. to earn
a satisfactory grade in the overall project. They
complained about the lack of interactions, comments, and participation from others; they also
pointed out the fact that posts were not exactly
related to knowledge visualization most of the
time, but discussed general knowledge manage-

170

ment issues which defaced the purpose of the


project whose focus was on how knowledge could
be effectively visualized.

Research Question B:
Recommendations
When asked to provide feedback on when, how,
what, and why improve the overall usability of
the Web log, participants suggested a broad list
of recommendations. They were grouped into
two main categories related to the content and
the structure of the Web log.

Content
One of the comments raised from the interview
transcriptions regarded the length of a post. Participants claimed that long posts were difficult
to be read, lacked of clearness, and made the
management of the Web log quite complex and
inefficient. An ideal post was elaborated in one
paragraph with a clear title related to the content
and clickable subtitles connected to additional
insights to be shown in a cascade format, if opportunely activated. As a general finding, it emerged
that clarity and length of the post appeared to be
strongly related.
Another frequent recommendation regarded
the use of images and videos. While videos
were not always considered as useful because I
personally dont have time to look at videos, as
a participant claimed, the correct use of images
helped the identification of the content of the
post, facilitated the navigation of the Web log,
and increased the attractiveness of contributions.
Images had to relate to the content of the post, and
had to have appealing colors with a clear location
on the webpage; videos had to be embedded into
the post to allow an easy access. As a general
preference, participants showed an interest for
weekly topics.
The last finding regarded the bloggers identity,
which was recommended to be always clearly

Becoming a Blogger

stated at the end of the post, and in the comments


section. The Web log was considered as a virtual
place to leave and receive feedback, provide
further insights, stimulate debate, and propose
personal thoughts and experiences related to the
virtual discussion. In general, it was found that a
general expression of interest was not considered
as a useful comment of a post, as a participant
clearly stated:
what I meant for interactions was more of the
participation from the others I dont expect them
to write a story but I would expect them to give
feedback, feedback like this is good is not very
appropriated unless if I am asking what do you
think of this? but usually I think the purpose of
the blog is to make people aware of what you are
doing in terms of our project so I would like to
see people providing feedback or comments as
far as if they like something about it, or what is it
that they like about, or what is it that they dislike,
or what is it that they think should be added or
considered [P4]

Structure
The format of a post and the structure of the Web
log were the other two recommendations provided by the participants of this study. The first
recommendation related to the length of a post
as it was suggested to keep it short and simple to
increase the readability of the Web log. To attain
this goal, participants suggested creating several
sub-paragraphs and link them to clickable subtitles connected to further contents. Such a post
organization was considered as the most efficient
one to ensure an increased readability of the Web
log and an easier access to the relevant content.
To improve the usability of the Web log, it was
also suggested to use categories and tags to group
articles for future accesses, and to place a bottom
at the end of the post to facilitate the retrieval of
previous posts. Although the use of labels and

tags was mentioned by several participants and


emerged as a common pattern in data analysis,
the debate about when the categorization had to
be done, i.e. at the beginning of the project or
after articles were posted on it, was controversial.
Participants expressed an interest for chat
rooms and discussion forums, two features not
available on the Web log but considered essential
tools to increase interactions, and create a sharing
virtual environment where questions could be
answered and knowledge could be transmitted
from one source to another in real time.
Finally, an emerging pattern regarded the training on how to post a new content. Participants
underlined the importance to introduce a trainer
or web master to facilitate the application of
rules and procedures on how to blog, and how to
format contributions, especially in terms of font
and template usage. The training was seen as a
way to get to know the tool but also to ensure high
quality contributions and increase the effectiveness of the Web log:
If there was more training at the beginning on
how to, how to bring an article into the blog,
how to post an image, how to post a video, how
to post different stuff within the blog, that would
help a lot, first of all now you know how to post
it, then you have to do research to find the right
article [P7]

SUMMARY
This section summarizes recommendations on
how to improve the Web log. It considers both
the content and structure, and highlights the
expected produced outcome, i.e. knowledge creation, knowledge transfer, or knowledge sharing
(Table 1). For a definition of knowledge creation,
transfer and sharing please refer to the glossary
of key terms in the appendix section of this book.

171

Becoming a Blogger

Table 1. Summary of recommendations


Recommendation
Elaboration of a post. Keep it short and simple

Category
Content

Outcome
Knowledge creation

Use of images and videos

Content

Knowledge transfer

Weekly topics, regular updates

Content

Knowledge transfer

Identity of contributors and use of feedback/comments

Content

Knowledge sharing

Cascade format

Structure

Knowledge transfer

Categorization/use of labels and tags

Structure

Knowledge transfer

Chat system and discussion forum

Structure

Knowledge sharing

Training and web master

Structure

Knowledge transfer

Recommendation 1: While elaborating a new


post it is critical to keep it short and simple. This
first recommendation regards the content of a
post. If it is summarized and appropriately elaborated it will contribute to the creation of new
knowledge for the benefit of the virtual community. This process is also connected to the amount
of bloggers interactions and contributions. This
process is seen as a way to share basic information
that in turn will become social knowledge once
it is elaborated and mixed with personal knowledge. As a participant claimed:
how did this guy know about storytelling?
Because he heard about storytelling from somebody elses submission, so by starting collecting
material he developed new knowledge, based on
old knowledge, I mean the previous knowledge
that was on the blog, so people are reading, they
are interacting, they are adding material related
to the subject, so people started throwing information in the beginning of knowledge and they are
becoming more focused [P2]
Recommendation 2: The use of images and
videos will facilitate the location of a post and
will increase its attractiveness. This second recommendation regards the content of the post. The
correct use of images and videos will facilitate
the understanding of the post, will make it more
appealing to readers, and will contribute to the

172

body of knowledge transferred on the Web log.


This will be especially ensured if the image or
video is clearly embedded into the Web log.
Recommendation 3: The Web log should be
regularly updated. The update process has to be
done regularly, e.g. daily contributions, and may
regard weekly topics. This process will facilitate
the transfer of knowledge from one source to
another and will create the basis for knowledge
sharing through the comment section and chat/
forum systems.
Recommendation 4: The identity of contributors should be always stated and interactions
should be ensured through the comment section
of the Web log. Knowledge sharing is an interactive process that may be easily facilitated by the
comment section. As a participant claimed:
It has become a good source of knowledge sharing between the students, and you know, what I
have realized we are looking for each otherscomments, so lets see what happened here, there were
comments on this article, there were comments
on that, you are waiting even for specific guys
comments what he has to say about it, you want to
hear others opinions on that, what is going on, it
is a good way to communicate knowledge [P2]
Recommendation 5: Labels, tags and active
titles should be used to increase the usability of
the Web log. A correct categorization of posts

Becoming a Blogger

will facilitate the transfer of knowledge from


one allocation to another and will improve the
effectiveness of the Web log. It is recommended
to make posts short and simple, and use clickable
titles connected to further information to be shown
in a cascade format if opportunely activated.
Recommendation 6: Interactions may be
facilitated through the use of chat systems and/
or discussion forums. The use of chat rooms and
discussion forums will enhance knowledge sharing, and will promote online debates, feedback,
and personal reflections.
Recommendation 7: Training on how to
blog and the introduction of a webmaster may
increase the quality of contributions. To facilitate
the transfer of knowledge, participants suggested
introducing training sessions at the beginning of
the development of the Web log, and encouraged
the introduction of a webmaster to constantly
monitor the Web log to make sure that rules and
procedures are applied and the quality of contributions is ensured.

DISCUSSION, LIMITATIONS
AND FUTURE RESEARCH
Previous research indicates increased consent over
the critical role of management processes in the
creation, transfer and sharing of organizational
knowledge (Nonaka, 1994; Bennet & Bennet,
2004; Hayes & Walsham, 2003; Davenport &
Prusak, 1998; Dixon, 2000).
Researchers interests have long been concerned with characteristics and mechanisms of
management processes and the attention has
been focused on five main processes: Acquisition
(Shrivastava & Schneider, 1984), retention (Gioia
& Poole 1984; Nelson & Winter, 1982; Spender,
1996), and retrieval of knowledge (Huber, 1991;
Olivera, 2000; Mariano & Casey, 2007), but also
knowledge transfer (Van Wijk et al., 2003), and
knowledge sharing (Huber, 1982; Welsh & Dehler,
2004). Since the introduction of the Internet as

a tool to foster interactions and communication


processes, individuals have started using social
media, e.g. wikis and social networks, to transfer
or share their own personal knowledge shifting
from traditional emails to centralized repositories, e.g. Web logs. As a result, organizational
knowledge has become more easily accessible
and searchable, and Web logs have been seen as a
more permanent and user-friendly communication
media (Wyld, 2008). Web logs have thus become
ways to narrate individuals day-to-day activities
and have help individuals corresponding with the
other members of a community, e.g. a company
(Manjoo, 2002). A Web log is seen as a destination
site. On the Web log only wanted communication
processes take place by opposite of email inboxes
were both wanted and unwanted communication
processes, e.g. spam messages, may occur (Wyld,
2008; Weil, 2004). This study was an empirical
contribution to the debate on Web logs. It addressed
the following research questions: (RQ) How are
social media used to manage knowledge? (RQa)
What are the main impediments to the management of knowledge in social media? (RQb) What
are the recommendations to the management of
knowledge in social media?
Purpose of this study was to better understand
how individuals create, transfer, and share knowledge in social media.
Findings confirmed those research studies
addressing the significance of information technology tools to support the creation, transfer,
storage and retrieval of knowledge, the so called
knowledge processes (Alavi & Tiwana, 2003),
and supported the importance of codified processes
and interactions of individuals on a Web log. This
qualitative study found that participants generally
transferred or shared knowledge on the Web log
and only in some cases they contributed to the
creation of new knowledge. Knowledge creation
included all activities related to the elaboration
of a post; knowledge transfer included activities
related to the structure of a post, and to the training and monitoring activities; finally, knowledge

173

Becoming a Blogger

sharing activities included the use of systems


to facilitate the interchange of ideas, thoughts,
and personal knowledge on the Web log. It was
found that the Web log was periodically updated
by individuals (Orlikowski, 1996), confirming
that less then two to three posts per week would
not give individuals a reason to visit the Web
log (Wyld, 2008). This study found that while
updating new posts, participants usually used a
pull format, e.g. they would include a link to an
external video into the post, even though they
preferred to retrieve knowledge from someone
elses post that used a push format, e.g. the video
was embedded into the post. To attract the visual
attention of users, a post had to be short and simple,
elaborated and summarized by the author you
must be the author of your posts (Wyld, 2008,
p. 465) categorized in terms of a certain content
for an easier retrieval, e.g. permalinks that other
bloggers can use to link back to a specific post on
your blog, not simply to the front page (Wyld,
2008, p. 461), regularly updated, and professionally formatted. These findings confirmed Wylds
(2008) recommendations regarding basic strategic
decisions to make about the format and structure
of the blog, e.g. name, screen layout, archiving
options. Participants expressed a preference to
comment posts related to class discussions to get
feedback from the other students; from a more
general view point, this may represent an attitude
to use social media to debate on topics that may
emerge from the workplace on a daily basis instead
of focusing on strict and predetermined themes.
Also, these findings confirm the importance of the
comment section as it provides the opportunity
for readers to provide feedback to the blogger
(Wyld, 2008, p. 461). Participants claimed that the
use of instant message systems was not allowed
and such a limitation influenced their ways to
contact a knowledge source, (Zack, 1999) or to
transfer knowledge from one allocation to another
(Alavi & Tiwana, 2003). The absence of training
programs to help participants getting used to the
Web log software affected the motivation to use

174

complex features of it or to post notes/replies to


it (Orlikowski, 1993).
Findings addressed several impediments in the
use of the Web log. Participants cited the lack of
time, lack of understanding, and lack of motivation
to use and update the Web log. It turned out that
participants liked to answer posted questions to
help each others despite the absence of external
rewards (Constant et al., 1996), which in this
study was represented by the course grade. This
result confirmed Goodman and Darrs (1996)
study which found that in the absence of external
rewards employees are not motivated to update
shared databases.
This study has implications for practice.
Managers, who want to use a Web log to increase
the creation, transfer and sharing of knowledge
within a company, will have to schedule daily
time to allow employees to manage and update
it. For instances, this may be half an hour at the
end of the work day. It will avoid complains about
the lack of time and will motivate individuals to
develop the Web log. An increased motivation to
contribute to the Web log may also come from the
implementation of a ranking system, e.g. polling
or power ranking (Wyld, 2008) of the best post
or best blogger, e.g. post/blogger of the month.
Blogger will be allowed to discuss topics that may
emerge from the workplace instead of focusing
on strict and predetermined themes. Blogger
will also have to be trained about the features of
the software to avoid the lack of understanding
in the use of the tool. Chat systems, discussion
forums, clickable titles connected to extra content,
and permalinks will have to be implemented to
improve the usability of the Web log.
This study also provides insights for academics
and contributes to the debate on how knowledge
processes can be related to social media throughout
the collection of empirical data on social knowledge. This will be useful to those interested in a
new theoretical approach connecting individual
knowledge to social knowledge, as well as to

Becoming a Blogger

those studying social media for the management


of organizational knowledge.
This study focuses on the processes of knowledge creation, transfer, and sharing in social
media, i.e. Web logs. It does not consider other
related knowledge management processes such
as acquisition (Shrivastava & Schneider, 1984),
and retention of knowledge (Feldman, 1989; Gioia
& Poole 1984; Nelson & Winter, 1982; Spender,
1996). This qualitative study focuses only on a
small community of individuals.
Future research should be conducted on how
Web logs may impact the effectiveness of organizational communications. How do employees
make use of the Web log to increase the organizational communication? What type of knowledge is
shared? How can organizational communications
be improved through the use of Web logs? Empirical research should also be conducted to explain
how internal and external bloggers contribute to
the development of organizational expertise and
how Web log best practices whose evolution is
expected to happen over time (Payne, 2003) can
be produced and managed to create, transfer, and
share new knowledge that is introduced into a company throughout organizational social processes.

Bennet, D., & Bennet, A. (2003). The rise of the


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(Ed.), Handbook on Knowledge Management 1:
Knowledge Matters (pp. 620). Berlin, Heidelberg,
New York: Springer-Verlag.

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ADDITIONAL READING
Cook, S. D. N., & Brown, J. S. (1999). Bridging
epistemologies: The generative dance between
organizational knowledge and organizational
knowing. Organization Science, 10(4), 381400.
doi:10.1287/orsc.10.4.381
This paper discusses the relationship between
knowledge and knowing. It asserts that knowledge
is a tool of knowing, and knowing is an aspect
of individuals interactions with the social and
physical world. The interplay of knowledge and
knowing generates new knowledge and becomes
a source of organizational innovation.

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Becoming a Blogger

Creswell, J. W. (2003). Research design. Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
John W. Creswell identifies and describes the
major design characteristics of qualitative,
quantitative, and mixed methods. The book is
divided in two parts. The first part discusses the
framework for design, review of the literature,
writing strategies, and ethical considerations.
The second part deals with the research design
and discusses introduction, purpose statement,
research questions and hypotheses, use of theory,
definitions, limitations and significance, quantitative methods, qualitative procedures, and mixed
methods procedures. This book represents a key
reference for students and researchers.
Davenport, T. H., & Prusak, L. (1998). Working
knowledge: How organizations manage what they
know. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
This book builds on more than thirty knowledge
management initiatives and provides information
on the role of information technology in knowledge management, corporate culture, employee
behavior, and measurements of a projects success.
It represents a practical approach to the study of
organizational knowledge.
Nonaka, I. (1994). A dynamic theory of the organizational knowledge creation. Organization
Science, 5(1), 1437. doi:10.1287/orsc.5.1.14

178

This paper provides a conceptual framework on


knowledge creation. It examines the dynamic relationship between tacit and explicit knowledge and
discusses the four modes of knowledge creation,
i.e. socialization, externalization, internalization,
combination. It argues that both individuals and
organizations play a critical role in the creation
of new knowledge.

KEY TERMS AND DEFINITIONS


Knowledge Creation: It regards the formation of new knowledge from previous existing
knowledge. It takes place through the interaction
between tacit and explicit knowledge.
Knowledge Sharing: It is the exchange of
knowledge between two (or more) sources of
knowledge.
Knowledge Transfer: It is the transfer of
knowledge from one source to another.
Pull Technology: The user has to take actions
to retrieve the information, e.g. search engines.
Push Technology: Information is placed in a
way to facilitate its view and retrieval, e.g. pushing computer updates to a user.
Web Log: It is an online journal about an individual or a community of people, e.g. a company,
with periodical chronological entries.

179

Chapter 11

Encouraging Participation
in Virtual Communities
of Practice within the
United States Air Force
Nick Bowersox
TUI University, USA

ABSTRACT
With the growth of information and communication technology (ICT) such as the internet, email, and
video conferencing, the United States Air Force has become more efficient and productive in conducting
its daily business. However, not only do computer technologies increase daily productivity rates among
the employees; they also increase the Air Forces capability to digest larger amounts of information while
supporting an end goal of being able to share that information across the entire organization. Perhaps
one of the most popular methods by which to share such large amounts of organizational information is
through informal learning environments such as communities of practice. The Air Force has no doubt
embraced the concept of communities of practice. However, as popular as these communities are
among many employees, there is still a majority of Air Force employees who choose not to use them. The
purpose of this chapter is to provide practical ways in which the United States Air Force can increase
participation in Virtual Communities of Practice (VCoPs) among its workforce, as well as providing
theoretical frameworks upon which further research can be conducted. Finally, this chapter will propose
a set of testable propositions that may serve as the basis for future research.

INTRODUCTION
With the growth of information and communication technology (ICT) such as the internet, email,
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-203-1.ch011

and video conferencing, the United States Air


Force has become more efficient and productive
in conducting its daily business. However, not
only do computer technologies increase daily
productivity rates among the employees; they also

Copyright 2011, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.

Encouraging Participation in Virtual Communities of Practice within the United States Air Force

increase the Air Forces capability to digest larger


amounts of information while supporting an end
goal of being able to share that information across
the entire organization. As such, terms such as
knowledge management, knowledge society, and
the information age have become dominant themes
within the Air Force. Because of this, it may come
as no surprise that there is an increasing desire
to emphasize knowledge sharing techniques and
strategies that will foster improved performance
and effectiveness. The emphasis on knowledge
management through collaborative means is an
excellent manner in which to achieve this (E. C.
Wenger & Snyder, 2000). Perhaps one of the most
popular methods by which to share such large
amounts of organizational information is through
informal learning environments such as communities of practice. The Air Force has no doubt
embraced the concept of communities of practice.
However, as popular as these communities are
among many employees, there is still a majority of
Air Force employees who choose not to use them.
The purpose of this chapter is to provide practical
ways in which the United States Air Force can
increase participation in Virtual Communities of
Practice (VCoPs) among its workforce, as well
as providing theoretical frameworks upon which
further research can be conducted.

COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE
(COPS) DEFINED
Communities of practice (abbreviated as CoPs
hereafter) are defined in the early works of Lave
and Wenger (1991, p.98) as a set of relations
among persons, activity and world, over time
and in relation with other tangential and overlapping communities of practice. This definition
centered on the idea of apprenticeship in which
CoPs were viewed as a form of socialization
into a community (Kimble & Hildreth, 2005).
This assumes a unidirectional process by which
newer community members integrate themselves

180

into the communitys practices. Lave and Wenger


(1991) state that newcomers move from a state of
legitimate peripheral participation into that of
full membership. During legitimate peripheral
participation, newcomers engage in several roles at
the same time to invoke varied degrees of experience and interaction. Eventually, members of the
community become recognized as they learn the
rules and boundaries which guide that community.
Although this definition of CoPs is accurate,
perhaps a more modernized and simplified definition is provided by Kimble & Hildreth (2005).
They define CoPs as groups of people bound
together by a common purpose and an internal
motivation, often with long-term objectives in
mind. Consider this definition in the organizational
context. Applying the keywords of the definition
provided by Kimble & Hildreth (2005), it can be
assumed that the various departments of any organization comprise a CoP (i.e. human resources,
finance, and marketing). For example, lets consider an example such as the finance department
at a major Air Force base. Each employee working
in finance has a common purpose: to successfully
control, monitor, and manage the financial assets
of the government. Some employees may serve
as financial analysts looking at financial statements while others may be in charge of long-term
budget forecasting, but in essence their purpose
is one in the same. In addition, they are internally
motivated to do the best they can to ensure that
the United States Air Force continues to have success for many years into the future. As a result of
this example, it can be assumed that the practice
and purpose of CoPs may be construed as having always existed, even before being formally
identified as such.

THE HISTORY OF COPS AND THE


SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY
The early work of the social learning theory was
attributed to Bandura (1977). In general, social

Encouraging Participation in Virtual Communities of Practice within the United States Air Force

learning theory emphasizes the importance of


observing and modeling the behaviors, attitudes,
and emotional reactions of others. According to
Bandura (1977), learning would be exceedingly
difficult and hazardous if people had to rely solely
on the effects of their own actions to inform them
what to do. Through socialized learning, employees of a company are able to share information and
knowledge in an effective manner. Learning that
takes place in a CoP is viewed as a social process
by which members become active participants in
the community they are part of.
Etienne Wenger is perhaps one of the most
prominent theorists in linking social learning
theory to CoPs. Although his theory does not
seek to replace existing theories such as Bandura
(1977), it does come with its own set of assumptions and its focus. In his book titled Communities
of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity,
Wenger (1998) outlines four reasons as to why
learning should be social, rather than individual
in nature:
1. We are social beings.
2. With respect to valued enterprises, knowledge is a matter of competence.
3. Knowing is a matter of participating in the
pursuit of such enterprises. We should actively engage in the world.
4. Our ability to experience the world and
engage with it as meaningful is ultimately
what learning is about.
An examination of the four premises above
can allow one to conclude that learning is not so
much individual as it is an individual acting as a
participant in a social community.
Wengers primary focus of his social theory
is that social learning should be viewed as social
participation where participation refers not just to
the local events of engagement in certain activities
with certain people, but to a more encompassing
process of active participants in the practices
of social communities (1999, p. 31). Wenger

(1998) also discusses four components necessary


to surmise that social participation is a process of
learning. They are:
1. Meaning: a way of talking about how
individuals experience the world around
them through their individual and collective
abilities
2. Practice: a way of talking about shared
historical and social frameworks, resources,
and perspectives that can sustain mutual
engagement in action
3. Community: a way of talking about the
social configurations that our enterprises
are designed in
4. Identity: a way of talking about how learning changes who we are in communities
Figure 1 represents a visual model of Wengers
(1998) components of the social theory of learning.
The four elements meaning, practice, community, and identity are interchangeable in regards
to their relationship to learning. For example,
switching any of the elements with learning still
allows the figure to make sense.
Much of the scholarly research work conducted on CoPs is based on Wengers social
theory of learning. For example, Kimble & Hildreth (2005) explored the relationship between
knowledge management and CoPs using data
collected from a case study on a large international corporation. Specifically, the article discusses how the social relationships and shared
artifacts inherent to the companys virtual communities of practice (VCoPs) can be linked to
Wengers concepts of a participation-reification
duality. Their case study found that shared artifacts
were important in the process of creating, sharing,
and transferring knowledge through the VCoP as
well as facilitating social participation, which is
important in building and maintaining personal
relationships between VCoP group members.
Ardichvili, Page & Wentling (2003) conducted
a qualitative study of the motivators and barriers

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Encouraging Participation in Virtual Communities of Practice within the United States Air Force

Figure 1. Components of the social theory of learning: an initial inventory (adapted from Wenger, 1998,
p.5)

to participation in VCoPs. They argue that active


participation is a critical ingredient to the successful functioning of any type of CoP. Further, they
describe CoP participation as an economic model
of supply and demand. In other words, the supply
of knowledge provided by the knowledge givers
must be sufficient to meet the demand for the
knowledge seekers. Therefore, social participation
is critical. Overall, the results of their study found
that knowledge flows easily when employees view
knowledge as a public good that benefits the entire
organization. Finally, employees will participate
more when they are geographically dispersed and
are trying to integrate themselves more quickly
into their work environment.

DETERMINING
CHARACTERISTICS OF CoPs
According to Wenger (1998), CoPs can be characterized using two broad categories: structural
characteristics and dimensions of practice. Structural characteristics attempt to define how CoPs
are established, whereas dimensions of practice
explain how members join CoPs. Both types are
equally important in defining, managing, and
cultivating CoPs, and, as such, are described in
greater detail below.
There has been much research work focusing on identifying CoP structural characteristics.

182

Wenger (2004) defines the three elements of a


CoP as the domain, community, and practice. He
defines domain as the area of knowledge that
brings the community together, gives it identity,
and defines the key issues that members need to
address (p.4). Further, the domain of a CoP helps
to recognize the area of knowledge to be studied,
rather than identifying tasks to be accomplished.
The goal in developing the domain is to take the
strategy of the organization and develop it into a
set of domains of knowledge which should then
be able to connect the strategy to the daily work.
Wenger (2004) describes the community as the
group of people for whom the domain is relevant,
the quality of the relationships among members,
and the definition of the boundary between the
inside and the outside (p. 4). This community
is more than a group of people sharing similar
interests. Rather, it is a group of people fostering
high levels of interaction in an attempt to discover
new knowledge, transfer existing knowledge, and
solve problems. This structural characteristic occurs after the knowledge domains are present. It is
here that community members are recruited and
those with greater experience may take the lead in
further developing and growing the community.
The third element as defined by Wenger (2004)
is practice which is the body of knowledge,
methods, tools, stories, cases, and documents
which members share and develop together (p.4).
Practice takes place after the domains of knowl-

Encouraging Participation in Virtual Communities of Practice within the United States Air Force

edge and community members are established. It


is here that community members are engaged in
the development of their practice through various
means which may include community speakers
and community meetings. This structural characteristic involves finding ways to maximize the
amount of knowledge available through efficient
use of the resources at hand.
The combination of these three elements enables CoPs to effectively manage their knowledge.
According to Wenger (1998), domain provides a
common focus, community builds relationships
that enable collective learning, and practice anchors the learning in what people do. Because
CoPs are organized into domains of knowledge
catered to specific members that practice within
them, they are well-positioned to add sustainable
strategic value to the organization. Figure 2 depicts how knowledge management is a strategic
activity that starts with a strategy and ends with
a strategy. Strategy is connected to performance
through knowledge.
Aside from the structural characteristics of
CoPs, it is also important to mention the dimensions of practice. Wenger (1998) states that there
Figure 2. The doughnut model of knowledge
management (adapted from Wenger, 2004, p.3)

are three components of practice for a CoP: mutual engagement, joint enterprise, and shared
repertoire. Mutual engagement refers to the notion
that practitioners with the same interests and ideas
will typically be members of the same CoPs. Joint
enterprise reflects the notion that beyond stated
goals there is mutual accountability among community members. Finally, shared repertoire includes routines, methods, tools, stories, gestures,
symbols, and other such actions and objects that
the community has developed over time. Figure
3 addresses the evolution of the CoP, beginning
with its structural characteristics that lead to it
conception and then its dimensions of practice
leading to its growth in community members.
By examining the above figure, reconsider the
Microsoft Corporation finance example described
earlier. Each employee working in finance for the
Microsoft Corporation has a common purpose or
domain: to successfully control, monitor, and
manage the financial assets of the company. As
such, they form a community of employees that
collectively work together each day to ensure the
financial success of the organization. Thus, social
interaction among one another is common, promoting a team-oriented learning environment.

Figure 3. The evolution of the CoP: from conception to the growth of community members (adapted
from Wenger, 1998)

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Encouraging Participation in Virtual Communities of Practice within the United States Air Force

Practice, or the knowledge, methods, tools, stories,


cases, and documents within the community
provides an anchor for collective learning to occur. Since domain, community, and practice are
present, the right environment exists for a CoP to
form. As the Microsoft Corporation grows over
time, new finance employees enter the department.
Because they share the same interests towards
corporate finance and are committed to the financial success of the corporation as the employees
who have been around for some time, they become
part of the CoP. Over time, they integrate themselves into the collective network of community
members, while at the same time learning the
routines, policies, and practices that comprise the
community they are a part of.

THE RISE OF VIRTUAL


COMMUNITIES OF
PRACTICE (VCoPs)
Technological advancements are undoubtedly
allowing employees geographically separated
from one another the opportunity to become part
of a community within the organization. These
communities are known as virtual communities
of practice and have become popular with the
onset of the global information age. As defined
by Allen, Ure, & Evans (2003), VCoPs are
physically distributed groups of individuals who
participate in activities, share knowledge and
expertise, and function as an interdependent
network over an extended period of time, using
various technological means to communicate with
one another, with the shared goal of furthering
their practice or doing their work better (p.7).
VCoPs are essentially the same as CoPs.
However, members use technologies such as the
internet, email, and videoconferencing, to maintain virtual contact with one another, whereas
traditional CoPs employ face-to-face methods for

184

member communication. Members of a VCoP can


interact through on-line message boards where
members view and post messages to one another.
Commonly, communication occurs via computermediated means; however, other methods such as
telephone can occur.
It is no surprise to both scholars and practitioners that knowledge sharing is an innovative force
that can lead to long-term competitive advantages
for organizations wishing to embrace it. Connelly
& Kelloway (2003) define knowledge sharing
as a set of behaviors that aids in the exchange of
information to others. In todays global business
economy, interpersonal means of communication
are becoming rare. Instead, virtual environments
are becoming the cost-effective and time-sensitive
norm to knowledge sharing for several reasons.
One of the central reasons why VCoPs are
important is that they have the potential ability to
transfer an organizations tacit knowledge the
source of its competitive advantages (Dougherty,
1995). Tacit knowledge is that knowledge that
is often based on years of experience and is not
easily codifiable into a useable form. Horvath
(1999) states that tacit knowledge is often buried
within the stories people tell and that VCoPs are
an excellent means by which to share this tacit
knowledge. VCoPs allow employees to communicate anytime and anywhere through virtual
telecommunications.

VIRTUAL COMMUNITIES OF
PRACTICE IN THE AIR FORCE
The Department of Defense (DoD) has long
strived to successfully integrate information sharing among the different branches of the military
(Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marines) and has
identified knowledge as a key enabler required for
this integration to occur. DoDs goal is for these
branches to have the technical ability and necessary
relationships in place to share knowledge among
decision-makers (DoD, 2005b). Paragraph 4.E.1.,

Encouraging Participation in Virtual Communities of Practice within the United States Air Force

titled Knowledge Empowered, of the Capstone


Concept for Joint Operations (DoD, 2005a) states:
The future joint force will emphasize better
decisions made faster throughout all levels of
command. The fundamentals of this knowledge
empowerment are experienced and empowered
decision makers benefitting from an enhanced
understanding of the environment, potential adversaries and cultures, as well as enhanced collaborative decision-making processes. Although
we will never eliminate the fog of war, an increased
level of understanding should empower leaders
through the joint force. This will enable them to
anticipate the act as opportunities are present,
apply innovative solutions, mitigate risk, and
increase the pace, coherence, and effectiveness
of operations even in complex environments. A
knowledge-empowered force, capable of effective information sharing across all agencies and
partners, will be able to make better decisions
quicker, increasing joint force effectiveness. (p. 21)
Because of this, the DoD realizes the importance of knowledge management, or KM, across
all services. In fact, it is mentioned that knowledge
is critical for making decisions faster and better

than the enemy, and for sustaining that knowledge


as a tactical advantage (DoD, 2007).
USAF, one of the DoD services, is an organization faced with an increasing workload,
diminishing manpower, and an ever-increasing
necessity to maximize efficiencies. As such,
USAF has embraced the concepts of KM to manage this heavy workload. Precision is one of the
fundamental requirements that underpin the effectiveness of air and space power. To be precise
in the application of force requires knowledge
(USAF, 2003). The Air Force Information Strategy
(USAF, 2002) identifies that one of its main goals
is to implement and support KM techniques and
strategies that help to create, share, and transfer
organizational knowledge. Further, it states that
knowledge management practices are an essential
element to the overall information strategy for the
Air Force (USAF, 2003).
In accordance with its information strategy, the
Air Force created the Air Force Center of Excellence for Knowledge Management (AFKN) in
2004, whose primary purpose is two-fold. First,
the center is to create, maintain, and develop the
AFKN website, which allows users (Air Force
personnel, both military and civilian) access to
a central site where they can share information

Figure 4. AFKNs Five Level Methodology

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Encouraging Participation in Virtual Communities of Practice within the United States Air Force

with one another. Secondly, the center carries


out workshops to various organizations within
the Air Force. These workshops aim to provide
KM education and technology, as well as change
management techniques, to those organizations
requesting assistance. Figure 4 is a graphic representation of AKFNs five level methodology
used in daily operations.
The AFKN website provides an array of information as well as tools used to aid in the
process of collaborating and sharing knowledge.
Some of these tools include Knowledge Discovery, Air Force Deskbook, Virtual Communities
of Practice (VCoPs), and Wisdom Exchange
(Table 1).
Because the Air Force wants to capitalize on
the benefits of positive KM business practices,
AFKN is able to measure it usage among customers in the form of metrics using trend analysis and
statistical techniques. It is important to mention
that AFKN user accounts have grown from 400
in 2002 to 333,000 in 2009. Further, the number
of VCoPs has grown from 100 in 2002 to 4,600
in 2006 to 13,000 in 2008. Employees are highly
encouraged by Air Force leadership to become
active members of multiple communities of practice and other relevant KM communities. Air
Force leadership encourages workers to acquire,
create, document, transfer, and apply new knowledge whenever possible. However, there are still
many employees who choose not to use these
amazing knowledge sharing tools. How can the
Air Force change this? The following sections try

to answer this question using previous theoretical


research.

PARTICIPATION IN VIRTUAL
COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE
According to Ardichvili, Page & Wentling (2003),
one of the critical factors in determining a virtual
communitys success is its members motivation
to actively participate in community knowledge
generation and sharing activities (p. 64). Many
studies, such as those of Connelly & Kelloway
(2003), suggest the importance of a work environment that stresses positive social interaction and
knowledge sharing. Organizations like this give
rise to employees who are knowledgeable about
company rules, regulations, and procedures. Further, these types of employees better understand
and trust their co-workers, and are more willing
to work with them on team projects. Still other
studies (Ciborra & Patriota, 1998) show that
employees are unwilling to share knowledge and
participate in positive social interaction cultures.
Holthouse (1998) instead argues that the successful (or unsuccessful) transfer of knowledge
is a by-product of the organizations knowledge
management system. Amidst all of this confusion,
though, there is little substantiating evidence to
support why employees of an organization choose
to participate in VCoPs. The paragraphs that follow
will attempt to shed some light on this subject.

Table 1. Summary of AFKN knowledge tools


AFKN Tool

Definition/Purpose

Knowledge Discovery

Search engine allowing users to locate information across various Air Force
websites

Air Force Deskbook

Handy reference guide providing acronyms, common practices, reference,


website links, and lessons learned

Virtual Communities of Practice (CoPs)

Virtual workspace allowing members to share information with one another.

Wisdom Exchange

Allows users to post questions on a bulletin board which are then answered
by subject matter experts (SMEs)

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Encouraging Participation in Virtual Communities of Practice within the United States Air Force

For a VCoP to have activity, it is critical that


all members take an initiative in participation.
These two words activity and participation are
important and deserve further explanation. Koh,
Kim, Butler, & Bock (2007) delineate activity
in a VCoP as posting activity and viewing activity which may be done through various means
to include live audio/video streaming, message
boards, and online chats. Activity such as this is
a necessary and critical component to any VCoP.
Participation is a two-fold definition and entails
that members be willing to bothshare and use
existing knowledge. Therefore, when members
share their knowledge, they are participating in
posting activity; when they use knowledge that
is available on the VCoP, they are participating
in viewing activity. But what exactly is meant by
sharing and using knowledge? Simply put, sharing knowledge implies that the owner of the
knowledge is willing to allow others to use it.
Knowledge sharing can be defined as the activities
that involve gathering, absorbing, and/or transferring product and/or service information between
organizations and customers, alliance partners,
and/or employees (Chen & Barnes, 2006). Those
using the knowledge will gain increased levels of
understanding and efficiency into the business
policies, practices, processes and procedures,
thereby allowing them to better contribute to the
firm achieving it competitive advantages in the
marketplace.
Active participation helps to maintain the
socio-technical nature of this online environment
(Koh, et al., 2007). Ardichvili, Page, & Wentling
(2003) link employee participation in VCoPs
around three central themes which are discussed
below.
1. Employees must willingly participate to
share knowledge The first reason why
employees participate in VCoPs is to share
knowledge. Many employees often feel a
desire and passion to educate others and give
back to the company. Further, these types of

employees disregard information hoarding


as an obsolete technique for corporate success. Essentially, these types of employees
are adding to the supply of knowledge in
VCoPs.
2. Employees must willingly participate to use
knowledge If employees are willing to
share knowledge, then it only makes sense
that other employees are willing to use that
knowledge. One of the primary reasons for
the existence of VCoPs is to help disseminate
knowledge across the organization. Todays
competitive marketplace has forced a strong
demand on the use of both new and existing
knowledge.
3. Employees must willingly participate to use
technology In order to effectively use the
full functions of the VCoP, employees must
be willing to use the technology that comprises it. For a virtual community, members
should feel comfortable in using a computer,
the internet, and various other web-based
technologies. Technology acts as a necessary
facilitator to the flow of knowledge.

MOTIVATORS TO
SUCCESSFUL VCoPs
The success of VCoPs is undoubtedly based
on several factors. Just as in traditional CoPs,
participation by employees is a necessary factor.
Participation is necessary to create a social learning environment where the sharing of knowledge
can occur. Thus, social participation is a process
of learning (Wenger, 1998). Studies have yielded
many similar success factors to participation which
we will term motivators. Koh et al. (2007) proposes 4 motivators for successful VCoPs: leader
involvement, offline interaction, usefulness, and
the IT infrastructure quality. This chapter proposes
to add a fifth motivator: online interaction. Each
of these are discussed in greater detail below.

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Encouraging Participation in Virtual Communities of Practice within the United States Air Force

The first motivator is leader involvement.


Leader involvement is perhaps the most important
factor that encourages employees use in VCoPs.
When leaders stay involved, employees are more
willing to take an active role in posting and viewing
comments. In other words, they are more willing
to share and use the knowledge provided by the
VCoP. This is supported by Allen et al. (2003) who
states that active participation in communities
by upper-management clearly indicates that the
organization has made a commitment to VCoPs
and serves to motivate others to participate (p.
37). Further, leaders must show involvement by
providing the overall guidance and support that
will build, maintain, and grow the community
(Fontaine, 2001). Finally, Koh et al. (2007) states
that leadership involvement is necessary to promote trust among community members.
Offline interaction, such as face-to-face interviews, is another equally important element
of VCoPs. Although collaboration in a VCoP is
often done via computer-mediated technology in
an online environment, offline interaction among
community members helps to establish working
bonds, trust, and communication skills that may
otherwise be difficult to obtain. Due to physical
separation, offline communication may not always
be possible. It should, however, be maximized
whenever possible.
The perceived usefulness of VCoPs is also a
critical motivator to employees participation. Employees must be willing to see a benefit in their use,
and the perceived benefit must be greater than the
cost of maintaining them. For example, members
must feel that if they post questions for help on a
particular topic, they will receive helpful feedback
from other members. In addition, members should
be given ample time to contribute to VCoPs. If
the employees are provided time to access VCoPs,
then the supply and demand for new and existing
knowledge should increase over time.
Another motivator for successful VCoPs is the
IT infrastructure. The mention of this as a motivator comes as no surprise. Without the technology,

188

VCoPs would not be able to properly function,


and would cease to exist. Employees would not
be able to willingly share and use knowledge that
should otherwise be available. The infrastructure is equally important to the VCoP as is the
physical space to a traditional CoP. Because the
IT serves as the basis for a virtual community, it
must first be able to satisfy the users needs (Koh,
et al., 2007). According to Koh et al. (2007), the
response time of the system should be satisfactory to sufficiently allow for member interaction.
In addition, the system should be user-friendly
and reliable. As such, the IT infrastructure helps
motivators of VCoP participation increase both
the level of posting and viewing activity. Therefore, the quality of the IT infrastructure acts as a
moderator in the relationship between the VCoP
motivators mentioned above and the participants
willingness to share and use the knowledge available on the VCoP.
This chapter proposes adding a fifth motivator called online interaction. Online interaction
deals with the level of interaction that community
members face with each other while being in touch
through the computer. Online interaction does not
necessarily imply that members are online at the
same time. With advances in computer-mediated
communications, members of a VCoP may be able
to stay in contact through asynchronous forms of
interaction such as the use of websites, electronic
bulletin boards, and email. Synchronous forms of
interaction may include live chat and videoconferencing. Online interaction is important in that
it is the defining characteristic of a VCoP.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE


AND RESEARCH
While the motivators provided by Koh et al. (2007),
surely seem plausible, additional research needs to
be conducted for one primary reason. Researchers
need to ask the question, Do these motivating
factors hold true for the Air Force, which oper-

Encouraging Participation in Virtual Communities of Practice within the United States Air Force

Table 2. Propositions presented


Research question: How do senior Air Force leaders influence employees participation in VCoPs?
Proposition 1: Employees willingness to share knowledge (DV) is positively related to leaders involvement in VCoPs (IV).
Proposition 2: Employees willingness to use knowledge (DV) is positively related to leaders involvement in VCoPs (IV).
Proposition 3: Employees willingness to share knowledge (DV) is positively related to the level of online interaction between members
in VCoPs (IV).
Proposition 4: Employees willingness to use knowledge (DV) is positively related to the level of online interaction between members in
VCoPs (IV).
Proposition 5: Employees willingness to share knowledge (DV) is positively related to the level of offline interaction between members
in VCoPs (IV).
Proposition 6: Employees willingness to use knowledge (DV) is positively related to the level of offline interaction between members in
VCoPs (IV).
Proposition 7: Employees willingness to share knowledge (DV) is positively related to the usefulness of VCoPs (IV).
Proposition 8: Employees willingness to use knowledge (DV) is positively related to the usefulness of VCoPs (IV).
Proposition 9: The quality of the IT infrastructure in VCoPs (MV) mediates the relationship between leader involvement (IV), the level
of offline interaction (IV), and the usefulness (IV) with the employees willingness to share (DV) and use (DV) knowledge.

ates much differently than a corporation? Future


practitioners should consider further exploring
these motivators described by Koh et al (2007)
in this context. Once again, they are the impact
of leader involvement, online interaction, offline
interaction, usefulness, and IT infrastructure quality as predictors of employees willingness to share
knowledge, use knowledge, and use technologies
assisting in the daily functions of VCoPs. Future
research may consider the following research
question and the relating propositions. Please note
that DV is dependent variable, IV is independent
variable, and MV is mediating variable (Table 2).
Figure 5 represents a graphic representation
of the proposed relationships that exist between
the independent, moderating, and dependent
variables in the above hypotheses.

et al. (2007) to determine if additional motivators play a key role in determining employees
willingness to participate in VCoPs. Researchers
may also choose to examine the barriers to VCoP
participation. Finally, researchers might consider
investigating how the various leadership styles
inherent in the Air Force (i.e. transformational
and transactional leadership styles) can affect
participation in VCoPs.

Figure 5. Virtual community stimulation structure


(adapted from Koh et al, 2007, p.70)

FUTURE AREAS FOR RESEARCH


Because studies considering leadership and VCoPs
as relational variables are relatively scarce, especially in the realm of the Air Force, there are several
potential avenues for future research. Researchers
may want to consider revisiting the work of Koh

189

Encouraging Participation in Virtual Communities of Practice within the United States Air Force

The topic to consider for additional research


is to determine if other factors act as motivators
to employees participation in VCoPs. For this
chapter, there was a focus on the research work
conducted by Koh et al. (2007). Other researchers,
however, have also attempted to examine motivators to participation in virtual knowledge-sharing
communities. Research by Ardichvili et al. (2003)
found that employees may be willing to share
knowledge because there is a moral obligation
and community interest to do so. In addition,
contributing knowledge allowed some employees
to feel as if they were experts in their field,
while others felt as if they were giving back
to the organization. Wasko & Faraj (2005) also
found that employees are willing to share their
knowledge when it will benefit their reputation. In
regards to the use of such knowledge, Ardichvili
et al. (2003) found that new employees were willing to use the knowledge to get acquainted much
faster. They also found that the knowledge was
always available, and it keeps them apprised of
developments in their profession. It is important
to note that some if these reasons for knowledge
use may fall under the usefulness motivator
developed by Koh et al. (2007). In any case, this
area is worth re-examining.
Equally important is being able to understand
the barriers to participation in VCoPs. Just as there
is a limited amount of research on the relationship surrounding motivators to participation in
VCoPs, there is a lack of research on barriers to
participation in VCoPs. The work of Ardichvili
(2003) found that most employees would not share
knowledge because they were afraid of posting
something incorrectly, that no one would view
it, or because they believed in hoarding all available knowledge. Others stated that the process to
post information to VCoPs was time-consuming.
Finally, many feared both posting and viewing
information because of security reasons.
Finally, researchers may also want to investigate how the leadership styles of the Air
Forces leaders (both officers and NCOs) affects

190

members participation in VCoPs. Two primary


leadership styles have emerged in the mainstream
literature: transformational leadership and transactional leadership. Transformational leadership
was first introduced by Burns (1978) and studied
extensively by Bass (1985). Bass (1985) defines
transformational leadership as the leadership
style that inspires followers to exceed their own
self-interest for the good of the organization. In
contrast to the transformational leader, the transactional leader clarifies followers roles and what
must be done in order to obtain desired outcomes
and goals (Bass, 1985). Future studies could be
done to determine if transformational leaders or
motivational leaders are better equipped to encourage employee participation in VCoPs versus
transactional leaders.

CONCLUSION
KM scholars and practitioners have urged companies to find more effective ways at sharing knowledge to better create and maintain competitive
advantages in todays hostile marketplace. This
holds true for the Air Force as well. With the aggressive onslaught of modern technologies, VCoPs
provide an efficient means by which to achieve
this. However, the leaders of the organization
are crucial elements in assuring that employees
actively participate in VCoPs. Leaders are the
driving force in establishing the cultures, systems,
and boundaries that promote such knowledge
sharing throughout the organization.
This chapter chronicles recent exploratory
research designed to examine the role of community drivers as enablers of knowledge sharing
in VCoPs. Because little research has centered
on this topic, future empirical research is needed
concerning the synergistic relationships between
motivators and participation in VCoPs. Finally,
it is important to note that research should be
conducted in various types of organizations that

Encouraging Participation in Virtual Communities of Practice within the United States Air Force

utilize VCoPs to enhance the generalizability of


the findings.

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Wenger, E. (1999). Learning as Social Participation. Knowledge Management Review, 1(6),
3033.

192

Wenger, E. (2004). Knowledge management as


a doughnut: Shaping your knowledge strategy
through communities of practice. Ivey Business
Journal Online, 1.
Wenger, E. C., & Snyder, W. M. (2000). Communities of practice: The organizational frontier.
Harvard Business Review, 78(1), 139145.

193

Chapter 12

Social Knowledge Workspace


Jagdish K. Vasishtha
CoFounder and CEO Injoos, India

ABSTRACT
Over the years, knowledge management in organizations has picked up steam with implementation of
various solutions like Content Management Systems, Wiki, etc. However, the ability to find relevant
information and capture organizational learning still looks like a distant dream. Also, organizations
worldwide are transforming due to changes in worker demographics, globalization of business and
technological advances. The knowledge workers of today need tools for effective knowledge capture and
team collaboration. Some of the key concerns which will be analyzed in this chapter are; (a) Knowledge
fragmentation due to technology, (b) Relevancy of information to a user and (c) Push vs. Pull approach
of accessing information. The chapter will also explore how these challenges can be addressed by social
knowledge workspaces and what should be some of the key characteristics of these technologies under
development.

INTRODUCTION
According to consulting giant McKinsey & Co.,
nearly 85% of new jobs created between 1998
and 2006 involved complex knowledge work
like problem-solving and concocting corporate
strategy. Malone (2004) has described how todays organizations only use 30 ~ 40% of their

employees intelligence and this will change in


the coming years as organizations are now closer
to utilizing the full potential of their resources.
This according to the author is due to availability
of newer and cheaper modes of communication,
which places information instantaneously into the
hands of team members allowing them to make
better choices. This is what he calls democratization of business.

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-203-1.ch012
Copyright 2011, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.

Social Knowledge Workspace

Peter Drucker (2008) first coined the term


Knowledge worker, and proposed that the
knowledge worker think and behave like a Chief
Executive Officer, which requires them to be able
to make their own decision rather than being told
what to do. Though this paradigm has been in
place for many years the effect of various factors
like globalization, collaborative technologies and
new economies is assisting the transformation of
employees into true knowledge workers.
The goal of this chapter is to highlight some of
the challenges faced by organizations in enabling
their knowledge workers to capture and share
knowledge easily and effectively. Some of the
issues explored are (a) Knowledge fragmentation
due to technology, (b) Relevancy of information
to a user and (c) Push vs. Pull approach of accessing information. The goal is to define a social
knowledge workspace and analyze how it could
address these issues.

BACKGROUND
As has been seen in the last decade there has
been a steady move of jobs in the Information
Technology sector from leading countries like
USA and UK to developing countries like India
and Philippines. Organizations and IT staff in
USA and UK have adjusted to this new reality as
IT jobs have become more complex and creative.
Product design, IT Architecture, Project Management jobs are now held by American employees
whereas their Indian counterparts perform the
programming and maintenance functions. Thomas
Friedman (2006) indicates that in the coming years
the best companies will be the best collaborators.
Intellectual Capital is the most important resource for any organization (Stewart, 1997). We
have many successful organizations like IBM, GE,
Toyota, 3M being able to channel the creativity of
their employees into creating cutting edge products and leading global organizations. The former
CEO and founder of Information Technology giant

194

Infosys; N.R Narayana Murthy once pointed out


to a journalist that the value of Infosys at 9.15
a.m. in the morning when the workforce was in
attendance was $19 billion, but when they go
home at about 6 in the evening, Infosys valuation
was zero. Little wonder that Infosys has won the
Most Admired Knowledge Enterprise (MAKE)
award successively. Their tagline appropriately
sums up this belief, Powered by Intellect, Driven
by values.

Accelerating Innovation
The competitive edge of the United States of
America comes from innovating companies and
organizations. If you look at the Nobel Prizes
won today you will find that the United States
wins almost twice as many as the United Kingdom, which appears second on the Nobel Prize
list. Many thinkers recently have indicated that
the best way for USA to come out of the current
economic challenge is to innovate its way out.
Bell Labs filed on an average a patent a day
for more than 75 years of its existence and won
five Nobel prizes in Physics. Toyota Corporations
in-house idea generation scheme generated over 2
million ideas a year. Over 95% of the workforce
contributes with around 30 suggestions per employee where 90% of these suggestions are implemented. Similarly, IBM conducts an annual idea
generation boot camp which generates thousands
of new ideas many of which are implemented.
Social collaboration technologies can be effectively used for continuous idea generation
in organizations. A simple example is an idea
drop box. This box would allow employees to
submit ideas throughout the year. The whole
process can be made transparent by showcasing
ideas encouraging others to build upon the ideas
or contribute their own ideas. As some of these
ideas are implemented the team can be continuously -updated on the status, giving due credit
and motivating others to contribute.

Social Knowledge Workspace

Social Aspects of Business

He further indicates that besides money employees are looking for the following:

Organizations are seeking new ways to keep


employees connected. Studies have shown that
employees who are engaged tend to be more
committed to the organizations future goals
(Smythe, 2007). It is easy to see that engaged and
happy people collaborate.
Employee engagement is considered the
responsibility of the first level managers (Line
Managers or Supervisors). In the current paradigm
there is no direct communication channel to the
organizational leader (Chief Executive Officer).
Hence annual meetings are conducted where the
leader energizes and communicates to these first
level managers about his vision and external threats
the organization faces. These managers in turn are
supposed to carry the messages to their respective
teams and align their goals to the organizational
goals. In addition, the human resource professionals use multiple communication channels to
market these messages to employees. It has been
observed that employees are switching off to these
messages (Smythe, 2007).
As illustrated by John Smythe (2007) in his
book The CEO: Chief Engagement Officer there
is a seismic shift in the psychological contract
between employer and employee (Table 1).

Employability to grow
Opportunity to participate in decisions
that affect them and on which they can
contribute
Ethics and values they can identify with
Work-Life balance

This new psychological contract necessitates a


direct communication channel between the leader
and the employees. Such a direct communication
is possible through the use of social knowledge
workspaces as we will see in detail later in the
chapter.

Telecommuting and the


Missing Social Network
A study by Hewitt Associates (Next-Generation
Talent Management - Insights on How Workforce
Trends Are Changing the Face of Talent Management by Elissa Tucker, Tina Kao, and Nidhi
Verma) is calling the new workforce generation
as the Always On generation working virtually
from any location.
The workforce is in the midst of an unstoppable and radical transformation. It is becoming:

Table 1. Psychological contract between employer and employee (Smythe, 2007, pp. 83)
Then

Now

Cradle to grave

Portfolio careers

Loyalty

Transactional relationship

Dependence

Independence

Our human resources

Creative talent on loan

Employees

Citizens

Big institutions

My own company

Command and control

Well-governed inclusivity

CEO = God

CEO = Guide

I left the company

I left my boss

Local community

Workplace communities

195

Social Knowledge Workspace

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Smaller and Less Sufficiently Skilled


Increasingly Global
Highly Virtual
Vastly Diverse
Autonomous and Empowered (Hewitt, 2005,
pp. 1)

Telecommuting at one point was just the privilege of high tech firms where employees could
work from the convenience of their homes or used
by human resource department for special situations like pregnancy, etc,. Today telecommuting
is main stream and knowledge workers across
industry segments have been enjoying the benefits
it brings to them and their organizations. A recent
survey conducted by EIU (2003) of senior executives found evidence of a significant upsurge in
remote working. In the next two years alone, the
number of employers with no employees working
from home on a regular basis is predicted to drop
from 46% to 20%.
One of the recognized problems of telecommuting has been the lack of social interaction
between team members (Zemliansky, 2008). As
we will discuss in detail later the collaboration
technologies today are social by design and hence
reduce this challenge to a large extent. Todays
social networking allows employees to collaboratively view the work of the team, solve problems
in real-time, and make suggestions immediately.
The team member in a sense gets a feeling of being in a real office performing his tasks just that
this would be happening on a virtual collaboration
space. The benefits of todays collaborative work
is that employees choose their place of work, and
when traveling are not subject to work disruptions.
As the costs of bandwidth falls in developing
countries a large pool of talented people can now
be brought on to bear for an organizations work
without the need for building large office space
infrastructures.

196

SOCIAL KNOWLEDGE WORKSPACE


Knowledge Fragmentation
& Information Relevancy
One of the key problems in teams and organizations is knowledge fragmentation (Kock, 2005).
There are many reasons for this but the key reason
being the way technology has been implemented
and used. An example of this technology is Email.
Email was originally designed to replace corporate memos but its usage has expanded beyond
corporate communications. Email is used to
exchange files, forward internet links and short
social communications. This has led to what is
now commonly known as email overload. This
is exaggerated in teams with an email feature
called the group reply which is a handy way
of responding to the whole team. The problem
with this feature is that not everyone is interested
in your reply, which causes them to read more
unnecessary email, wasting valuable work time.
In a recent study by Nielsen Online (2009)
Member Communities (e.g. social networking
websites) has overtaken personal email in consumer reach. This shows a shift from email being
the most dominant form of communication on the
internet to new social forms of communications.
Businesses have yet to recognize this shift as they
still rely on earlier modes of communication and
collaboration chiefly email. This has created a
chasm between how an employee communicates
and collaborates in his official and personal spaces.
The personal space has become more sophisticated with the advent of social networking websites. These websites have the characteristics of
developing and showcasing relationships among
the members. Some of the social networking sites
are listed below:

Myspace: Started as website for upcoming


and amateur musical artistes to create their
own web page and promote their music.

Social Knowledge Workspace

Twitter: A micro blogging website which


allows users to broadcast messages up to
140 characters to other users.
Facebook: Provides ability to connect to
other users based on interests, college,
school, workplace, etc.
Linkedin: Allows professionals to create a detailed online resume and interact
with others by establishing connections. Is
increasingly used by corporate human resource recruiters.

These social networking websites are usually


blocked by business and organizations causing a
social anguish among employees. Some leading
organizations have tried to circumvent this problem by creating their own internal version of these
applications for e.g. IBM employee networking
application is called Bluebook.
The other key tool to exchange information
is the document store or more commonly the file
store. The file store can be easily implemented
using a file server with access permissions granted
to users. Due to the complicated access to the
server, users tend to copy the files to their machines creating numerous copies of the same file.

The other challenge is navigating and finding the


relevant information among the files stored. Even
with smart folder nomenclature this problem is
still a very big challenge. Apart from this, there
is the challenge of finding the right file version.
The file versioning problem has been somewhat
surmounted by using sophisticated version management systems, but these are tough to use and
configure for a lay user. These version management
systems completely ignore the social aspects like
popularity and rating of the documents.
Corporate intranets have been implemented
by organizations to enable communication and
collaboration among team members, providing
access to business applications such order management, inventory control, etc. and finally as
web publishing platform for journals, newsletters, etc,. Some of these intranets provide search
functionality and have been integrated with a
Content Management System (CMS), which acts
as a document store. Intranets have simplified
searching for information for members. In large
organizations an intranet would be a collection of
websites created by various departments which
is eventually connected to the common company
portal as depicted in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Corporate Intranet Silos

197

Social Knowledge Workspace

One of the problems created by this approach


to building intranets is that the knowledge gets
locked into each of the departmental or team
portals and is not shared across the organization
thus creating knowledge fragmentation. Also, due
to the old technology commonly referred to as
Web1.0 it is not easy for team members to build
and maintain their own websites.

Broken Conversations
and Google Wave
The problem of information fragmentation is not
just restricted to enterprise domain but can be seen
in the consumer space also. Google is the leading
search engine provider on the World Wide Web
but also has developed many applications for
consumers over the years. Some examples are
Blogger (Blogs), GMAIL (Email), GTALK (Chat)
and Google Apps (Spreadsheet & Word processor). These applications were developed as point
solutions catering to various communication and
collaboration needs of the people. Even though
developed by the same organization there was
no interlinking between the applications. If your
team used all the applications you would have
realized that the data residing in each of these
applications are in a silo and cannot be accessed
from other applications. Some of these problems
were removed by integrating the access to these
applications using single sign on or through a
common interface (GMAIL & GTALK). The
problem of information not linking to each other
remained and people were not able to continue
their conversations across applications. In 2009,
Google came up with Wave, which is trying to
integrate all the conversations across applications.
So if you have posted a comment on Blogger or
have chatted with another person on GTALK
or sent a document through email these can be
threaded into a single conversation stream.

198

Information Relevancy
Information relevancy is a big problem, but to
understand this it has to be broken down into
smaller issues namely, Accessibility (How can I
get the desired information quickly and easily),
Trust (Can I trust this knowledge being provided)
and Current (Is this the latest on this information or am I reading dated material). A typical
search in an intranet will generate a list of usually
dated information which is not relevant to a user.
Leading organizations who have teams focused
on knowledge management have tried to solve
this challenge by creating a separate knowledge
management store. Team members are encouraged
to contribute to this store, where the documents
they submit are peer reviewed and in some cases
rated. To increase participation to this forum a
carrot and stick approach is followed. Awards
are created and participation is linked to annual
reviews. This definitely creates a short burst of
enthusiasm but is not sustainable (Kelly, 2002).
A study conducted in a leading IT organization
revealed that close to 80% of members were
contributing to the forum, but only 2% were accessing the store for usage of information in their
projects. Let us contrast this with how open source
communities work on the internet and you can
most likely find the information you are looking
for 90% of the time. The knowledge is shared and
organized by enthusiastic members without the
need for any incentive.
Wikipedia has also shown how effectively this
can work and today more people are turning towards this online community edited encyclopedia
to get answers to many of their queries.

Searching for the Holy Grail


After discussing the Knowledge fragmentation and
information relevancy issues we take a look at the
third key issue faced by knowledge workers today,
searching for information. We spend a lot of time
using poplar search sites like Google and Yahoo

Social Knowledge Workspace

to surf the internet looking for that one piece of


information that could help complete a document
we are researching or working on. The search
engines have tried to simplify this task by providing a small box where the user types the desired
information he is looking for, but the simplicity
stops here. Typing those right keywords, the words
search engines use to find your information can
be difficult. This makes search, time consuming
and a frustrating process.
Sometimes it makes more sense to just ask
your friend or colleague for that information and
maybe his email or her SMS solves your problem
faster. This mode of accessing knowledge can be
called the pull mode.
An alternate to this is possible i.e. the Push
mode where the most relevant information comes
to a user as he or she performs routine tasks rather
than make a specific effort to get to the information. To me this should be the real goal of all
knowledge management systems.

Constructing a Social
Knowledge Workspace
We have analyzed the issues of Knowledge fragmentation, Relevancy of information and Push vs.
Pull approach of accessing information. We will
now look into how a social knowledge workspace
could address these issues.
Social knowledge workspace is an inter connected environment in which all the participants
derive value due to; Network of Users (Metcalfe
Law), Trust between users, Long Tail of Content
stored and use tools like Semantic search (RDF,
FOAF) and Content enrichment (Linking, Tagging, Rating).
Metcalfes law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the
square of the number of connected users of the
system. First formulated in this form by George
Gilder in 1993 and attributed to Robert Metcalfe
in regard to Ethernet. This so called network effect has been used to explain the growth of World

Wide Web and its value to the user. Knowledge


management sites like Wikipedia have shown how
a knowledge base can be built by large scale user
contribution. Apart from the user participation the
knowledge units themselves grow in value as they
get cross referenced, linked, tagged and searched.
To understand the idea of trust we could look
at the four-part definition provided by James S.
Coleman in his book Foundations of Social Theory.
(1) Placement of trust allows actions that otherwise are not possible (i.e. trust allows actions to
be conducted based on incomplete information on
the case in hand). (2)The person in whom trust is
placed (trustee) is Trustworthy, then the trustor
will be better off than if he or she had not trusted.
Conversely, if the trustee is not trustworthy, then
the trustor will be worse off than if he or she
had not trusted (this is reminiscent of a classical
prisoners dilemma). (3) Trust is an action that
involves a voluntary transfer of resources (physical, financial, intellectual, or temporal) from the
trustor to the trustee with no real commitment
from the trustee (again prisoners dilemma). (4)
A time lag exists between the extension of trust
and the result of the trusting behavior. (Coleman.
1990. pp 94-95)
The phrase the Long Tail was coined by Chris
Anderson (2006) who noted that a relative handful
of weblogs have many links going into them but
the long tail of millions of weblogs may have
only a handful of links going into them. Anderson
argued that products in low demand or that have
a low sales volume can collectively make up a
market share that rivals or exceeds the relatively
few current bestsellers and blockbusters, if the
store or distribution channel is large enough.
The long tail concept can be applied to a content
repository where less popular documents or blogs
can have readers who could derive value from it
at any point in the life of the organization. Hence,
it becomes important to continuously store and
preserve all documents and information items in
any organization.

199

Social Knowledge Workspace

Semantic search improves the search accuracy


by understanding the intent of the person searching by looking through the contextual meaning of
the search term. When implemented in an intranet
it could increase the chance of finding the most
relevant document a team member would need.
Some of the models used to implement semantic
search include Resource Description Framework
(RDF) and Friend of a friend (FOAF).
The knowledge workspace can be envisaged
using a layered model as depicted in Figure 2. At
the base is a set of social collaboration and social
media technologies which provide the essential
social fabric to organization members to communicate and collaborate. Business applications
such as file storage, project management, customer
relationship management, etc. are then built on
top of this social collaboration layer. Since these
applications are essentially integrated using the
same social tools they provide an easy way to
link various pieces of information of relevance.
A unified view to this knowledge base is then
provided through a common portal to the team
members. Through these portals knowledge can
be showcased to the outside world e.g. customers,
vendors, etc.
Knowledge fragmentation has been chiefly
caused as we discussed earlier due to the way
communication and collaboration tools have been
implemented in organizations. Apart from email

and content management systems, teams have


tried online chats, discussion boards, video conferencing, teleconferencing, Blogs, Wikis, etc.
The challenge being that these tools are used
sporadically for various purposes at different
times. There is no integration among all these
collaboration tools. What is needed is a social
knowledge workspace that deploy all these tools
where team members can work and collaborate.
The advantage being that all the transactions
which can be classified as chaotic knowledge
(Discussions, Chats, etc.) is captured for later use
and analysis. This chaotic knowledge can then be
linked with structured knowledge (Documents,
Videos, etc.) to provide richer information to users.
Todays social media tools provide various
ways by which members of a team can link
individual pieces of information making a more
dynamic and comprehensive information set.
Tagging information elements provide a very
effective way of not just classifying information
but also linking them. Tag technologies are evolving and now multi layer tags can be built around
an information object. What we can see as the
result is the ability to find information in a click
and avoid guessing search keywords.
Also a typical tag cloud (collection of tags)
provides a way to highlight tags that are more
popularly used by a team. This is also a way of
highlighting group thinking.

Figure 2. Social knowledge workspace: Layered model

200

Social Knowledge Workspace

Figure 3. The new unified communications

Tags have been popularized by many social


book marking sites like del.ic.ous and more recently micro blogging site Twitter.
A social knowledge workspace can exploit the
trusted relationships between users to enhance
value to the participants. Which team member or
colleague has read or rated an information item
like Blog or document, indicates relevancy for a
community member. The trusted source of information comes from friends, family and colleagues.
Todays social collaboration tools build on this
paradigm and could prove effective for knowledge
management. Members could follow updates on
an information item or activities of another colleague. A team member can leave a review comment on a document or could post a question, or
response to that would be useful for the whole
community. In organizations this also leads to a
healthy social competition with the goal of enhancing the team knowledge.

much about these individual tools but being able


to start conversations anywhere without worrying
about the underlying technology and seamlessly
able to connect multiple conversations. Here is
an example to illustrate this characteristic. Let us
say a participant posts an event in the calendar
and others accept to join the event. The participants
can then start and join and web conference from
the event and store the recorded video in the library
and minutes of the meeting notes as simple com-

Figure 4. Characteristics of social knowledge


workspaces

Characteristics of Social
Knowledge Workspace
There are clearly six key characteristics which
a social knowledge workspace should exhibit
(Figure 4).
Communication. The participants should be
able to conduct near real time conversations (email,
Blog, discussion boards) and real time conversations (chat, web conferencing). The idea is not so

201

Social Knowledge Workspace

ments to the event. On one of the key aspects a


participants then launches a discussion thread.
Content. The workspace can be looked upon
as a constantly growing repository with contributions from participants; a la Wiki. Going beyond
a simple Wiki there should be no restrictions on
the media on which the information can be stored.
It could be a document file produced by popular
word processors, a media file, HTML text or just a
photograph. There should be a clear ability for the
participants to make this content richer by providing meaningful tags and linking related content.
Connection. Clearly one of the key advancements of the Web 2.0 world has been the ability
to connect individuals based on interests, what
we call social networking. The workspace should
provide the ability to participants to establish
connections with various degrees of formality.
Participants can explore interests, expertise and
be able to follow the activities of other participants. These trusted linkages can then be tapped
by participants and the organization for extracting
various benefits like expert advice, mentoring, etc.
Collaboration. Leading organizations have
always found group collaboration, where people
with various specializations come together, effective in solving key organizational challenges. The
social knowledge workspace should provide ability to easily organize expert teams to collaborate
on a project or a task. For e.g. a document could
be edited by multiple folks or white boarding on
a new marketing idea.
Culture. One of the key characteristics of such
a system is to provide the organization the ability
to create and mould its culture beyond the four
walls of the physical office space. This is more
emphasized where team members are dispersed
geographically and could come from multiple
cultures. As we have seen in earlier discussions
the coming era is of Citizen Employees where
the management has to manage constant and
transparent communications. For e.g. an instant
poll can be conducted on any issue being debated
on the bulletin board.

202

Competencies. Finally the workspace should


provide ability to participants to increase their
competencies both through structured learning
like e-learning modules and through interaction
with mentors. The mentor-mentee interaction
could happen through a live mechanism like
video conferencing or through Q&A boards. All
these interactions are recorded automatically in
the workspace and could be provided as FAQs to
other participants.

Examples of Social Knowledge


Workspace Products
There are some early examples of technologies
being developed which demonstrate some of the
characteristics of the social knowledge workspace
as described before. Table 2 lists some of the
leading platforms in this space. These platforms
have been built keeping a certain user profile in
mind and will demonstrate different benefits and
hence should not be compared directly. The user
is advised to explore many of them as most of
them provide a free trial period.
These social knowledge workspaces at the
minimum provide the following functionalities:




Create multiple workspaces


Ability to group participants and if required create sub groups
Blogs and Wikis to share knowledge
A comprehensive media library
Social networking tools

Table 2. List of social knowledge workspace


products 1
Social Knowledge Workspaces

Website Address

Kinetic Glue

www.kineticglue.com

Cubetree

www.cubetree.com

Atlassian Confluence

www.atlassian.com

Jive Clearspace

www.jivesoftware.com

Social Knowledge Workspace

Ability to enrich information through rating, tagging, polling


Team calendar and team websites (dynamic website to showcase group activity to
the world on the net)
Web conferencing and discussion boards
Moderator and user control

To better understand these tools and how they


could prove beneficial to organizations we need
to differentiate the needs between large and small
organizations. Larger organizations would have
higher budgets for IT and have dedicated KM
teams and process. There has to be a blend of these
new technologies with the existing infrastructure.
For smaller organizations, knowledge rests
within individuals and the loss of any member has
a big impact on ongoing projects with customers.
In addition, there is a limited reliance on structured
processes and resources. That is where the power of
cloud based social knowledge workspaces can be
really seen. Members can access these workspaces
anytime, anywhere and securely from multiple
devices. Knowledge sharing and capture happens
in a social way as team members communicate
and collaborate on projects without need of any
elaborate process. These systems provide an ability
to get a continuous update on a team members
activity without being intrusive about it.
President Obamas TIGR member Andrew
McLaughlin, who heads public policy and government affairs for Google, described the use of
cloud computing as one of the most important
transformations the federal government will go
through in the next decade.

FUTURE RESEARCH &


DEVELOPMENT
For a knowledge worker the best imaginable solution would be to push relevant information to
him. For example, as he reads a recent news clip
only the most relevant ones tagged by the people

he trusts and the topics he mostly browsed and


which have reached a critical popularity rating is
shown to him. The system could generate a live
compendium of information related to the topic
of his interest trawling the entire knowledge base.
The onus should be on the technology to make
the interpretation based on an individuals social
behavior in determining the most relevant information. While a member is reading a Blog or an
email if he is shown relevant Blogs or emails the
effort required to find information goes down
dramatically.
There has been early development on technologies collectively called semantic web in
the internet space which could redefine the way
we store, organize and retrieve knowledge. An
application of semantic technologies shows big
promise to improve knowledge management
tools. Ultimately the goal of any social knowledge management system has to be the ability
to tap into the collective team intelligence and
increase the productivity of the next generation
of knowledge workers.

CONCLUSION
A social knowledge workspace can be used in
organizations to provide an easy and effective
way for knowledge capture and access. These
tools will easily capture both chaotic and structured knowledge and eliminate many of the issues
plaguing current IT implementations. These tools
will take the advancements made by the Social
Media and collaboration technologies to enable
the next generation of knowledge workers to easily tap into the organizations knowledge base.

REFERENCES
Anderson, C. (2006). The Long Tail: Why the
Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. New
York: Hyperion.

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Social Knowledge Workspace

Coleman, J. S. (1994). Foundations of Social


Theory (pp. 9495). Watertown, MA: Harvard
Business Press.
Drucker, P. F. (2008). The Essential Drucker: The
Best of Sixty Years of Peter Druckers Essential
Writings on Management. United Kingdom:
Harper Collins.

Zemliansky, P., & St Amant, K. (2008). Handbook of research on virtual workplaces and the
new nature of business practices. Hershey, PA:
Information Science Reference.

ADDITIONAL READING

Friedman, T. L. (2006). The World Is Flat: A Brief


History of the Twenty-first Century. New York:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Goleman, D. (2006). Social Intelligence: The new


science of human relationships. United Kingdom:
Hutchison.

ITAC (2003). Global Survey Predicts Upsurge in


Telework. (Telework News, Issue 3.3)

Hewitt, H. (2005). Blog: Understanding the Information reformation thats changing your world.
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Chapman & Hall. doi:10.1201/9781584889342

Social Knowledge Workspace

KEY TERMS AND DEFINITIONS


Content Management System (CMS): A set
of IT applications which help an organization,
store, retrieve and manage all types of media files.
Enterprise Application Integration (EAI):
A model of unifying common data across applications in an enterprise. This usually consists of
an integration bus to which various applications
connect.
Friend of a Friend (FOAF): A way of describing people and their social networks which
is understood by software.
Resource Description Framework (RDF):
A set of specifications for modeling information,
especially stored on the web.
Social Knowledge Workspace: Is an inter connected environment in which all the participants
derive value due to; Network of Users (Metcalfe

Law), Trust between users, Long Tail of Content


stored and use tools like Semantic search (RDF,
FOAF) and Content enrichment (Linking, Tagging, Rating).

ENDNOTE
1

Cyn.in & Cynapse is the registered trademark of Cynapse India Pvt. Ltd., Groupsite.
com is registered trademark of Groupsite.
com Inc, Elgg is the registered trademark
of Curvedriver Ltd., Injoos Teamware is the
registered trademark of Injoos Web Solutions
Pvt. Ltd., Jive Clearspace is the registered
trademark of Jive Software.

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Social Knowledge Workspace

APPENDIX
http://change.gov/newsroom/entry/inside_the_transition_technology_innovation_and_government_reform/. Technology, Innovation and Government Reform team of President Obama.
http://www.c4lpt.co.uk/Directory/Tools/group.html.Team, Enterprise, Group Collaboration Tools Directory.
http://www.mercer.com.au/workplace2012. Mercer. Workplace 2012 - Beyond Global Financial Crisis.
http://xmlns.com/foaf/spec/. FOAF Vocabulary Specification

206

207

Chapter 13

Sharing Scientific and Social


Knowledge in a Performance
Oriented Industry:
An Evaluation Model

Haris Papoutsakis
Technological Education Institute of Crete, Greece

ABSTRACT
The chapter evaluates the contribution of shared knowledge and information technology to manufacturing performance. For this purpose, a theoretical model was built and tested in praxis through a research
study among manufacturing, quality and R&D groups. The social character of science is perceived as
a matter of the aggregation of individuals, not their interactions, and social knowledge as simply the
additive outcome of mostly scientists, members of the three groups, making sound scientific judgments.
The study results verify the significant contribution of shared knowledge to the manufacturing group
performance. They also demonstrate that information technology influences notably the manufacturing
group performance and, in a less significant way, the sharing of knowledge. Study results are useful to
researchers and the business community alike as they may be used as a springboard for further empirical
studies and can help put together strategies involving knowledge management and information technology.

INTRODUCTION
At the turn of the twentieth century many companies (BP, Canon, GlaxoSmithKline, Honda,
Siemens and Xerox, among them) have tried, with
varied achievement rates, to leverage knowledge
assets by centralizing Knowledge Management
(KM) functions or by investing heavily in Information Technology (IT) (Davenport and Prusak,
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-203-1.ch013

2000; Hansen and von Oetinger, 2001). In parallel, the number of new knowledge management
articles, according to Despres and Chauvel (2000,
p. 55) ... has more than doubled each year over
the past decade. Among them quite a few have
proposed and tested models for the management
of knowledge, with or without the support of information technologies (Knight, 1999; Larsen et
al, 1999; Liebowitz et al, 2000; Kingsley, 2002).
A considerably smaller number of such studies
have investigated into how companies can le-

Copyright 2011, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

verage knowledge in order to improve business


performance (Nelson and Cooprider, 1996; Chong
et al, 2000; Firestone, 2001). Only one (Lee and
Choi, 2003), among the articles reviewed for this
study is combining all three variables: KM, IT and
performance. This is exactly the gap this chapter
is coming to fill in. Based on careful analysis of
the above mentioned previous empirical studies,
it builds and empirically tests a model that simultaneously explores the relationships among these
three variables and their antecedents.
The chapter is organized in six sections. In
the following section the theoretical framework
is defined and a brief presentation of relevant
previous empirical studies, focused on the links
among knowledge management and information
technology to business performance is given. In
section three, we situate our own model within the
above framework. The variables and the investigation hypotheses are defined. In section four, the
research methodology is presented and details are
given on the questionnaires the principal research
instruments and the indicators used for construct
measurement. In section five, the investigation hypotheses are tested, using regression analysis, and
statistical data are given on questions not analyzed
elsewhere. Finally, in section six, conclusions
are summarized and recommendations are given
for managers of collaborating groups in order to
increase shared knowledge and to positively affect
manufacturing performance.

THEORETICAL BACKGROUND
In the relevant literature, most attempts to investigate the links among KM and IT that lead
to improved business performance, are done
within the environment of the knowledge-creating
company (Nonaka 1991; Nonaka and Takeuchi
1995). Building upon this pioneer work, Grant,
in a series of articles (1995 with Baden-Fuller,
1996a, 1996b, 1997) and Sveiby (1997, 2001)
presented in a very clear way the fundamentals of

208

a knowledge-based theory of the firm. According


to Grant (1997) recapitulating on his previous
work the knowledge-based view is founded on
a set of basic assumptions. First, knowledge is
a vital source for value to be added to business
products and services and a key to gaining strategic competitive advantage. Second, explicit
and tacit knowledge vary on their transferability,
which also depends upon the capacity of the
recipient to accumulate knowledge. Third, tacit
knowledge rests inside individuals who have a
certain learning capacity. The depth of knowledge
required for knowledge creation sometimes needs
to be sacrificed to the width of knowledge that
production applications require. Fourth, most
knowledge, and especially explicit knowledge,
when developed for a certain application, ought
to be made available to additional applications,
for reasons of economy of scale.
Theoretically, our research stands upon the
knowledge-based theory of the firm (Grant,
1997; Sveiby, 2001). The fundamental problem
in traditional management theory is how to align
the objectives of workers with those of managers and the stakeholders. In accordance with the
knowledge-based view, if knowledge is the
preeminent productive resource, and most knowledge is created by and stored within individuals,
then employees are the primary stakeholders
(Grant 1997, p. 452). Under this perspective,
managements principal challenge is to establish
the mechanisms for collaborating individuals
and groups to coordinate their activities in order
to best integrate their knowledge into productive
activity. Sveiby (2001) believes that people can
use their competence to create value in two directions: by transferring and converting knowledge
externally or internally for the organization they
belong to. When the managers of a firm direct the
efforts of their employees internally, they create
tangible goods and intangible structures such as
better processes and new designs for products.
When they direct their attention outwards, in addition to delivery of goods and money they also

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

create intangible structures, such as customer


relationships, brand awareness, reputation and
new experiences for the customers.
For Fukayama (1999), the existence of social
capital that serves as a glue to hold diverse constituencies together, is a primary cause of success
or failure of any organization. The World Bank
defines social capital as norms and social relations
imbedded in social structures that enable people
to coordinate actions and achieve desired goals,
a definition that applies to countries, societies or
organizations. It is here where social knowledge
has an important role to play. Individuals develop
social knowledge through their interactions with
the social environment. Stable systems of social
knowledge are organized around certain domains;
the collaborating groups in our study. According
to Turiel (1983) the acquisition of social knowledge can be interpreted in two different ways: (i)
it can be knowledge transmitted to the individual
by other persons, and in this case the knowledge
acquired is dependent on what is transmitted; or
(ii) it can be knowledge constructed by individuals specifically about certain social phenomena
(p.1). In an effort to capture the dialectic and
dynamic relationship between the individual and
social knowledge, Jovchelovitch (2007) develops a social-psychological approach in order to
investigate knowledge in every day life. In her
framework, problems of social knowledge are
discussed in relation to individual, social and
collective representations. Knowledge represents
at the same time subjective, inter-subjective and
objective worlds (p. 168).
It is under the above theoretical perspective
that we are reviewing the literature, relevant to
our investigation, in the following section.

Previous Empirical Studies


Linking knowledge management and information technologies with business performance has
never been an easy task. Comparing KM projects
to their two prevailing predecessors (total quality

management and business process re-engineering)


Armistead (1999) notices that authors on KM
do not use the same hard measures of success consistently (p. 143). He believes that for
a knowledge-based view to be useful, it must
help improve some key performance indicators
like quality, flexibility and cost. Referring to
manufacturing companies he notes that operational
processes, which depend more on knowledge, are
expected to perform well against measurements
of quality in consistency, while at the same time
they improve productivity.
Our research focused on two basically diverse
areas: The measurement in terms of both qualitative and quantitative results of a KM projects
impact and, at the same time, the identification of
the cause-effect relationship that exists between
KM, IT, and the overall business performance.
Some previous studies captured KM contribution by focusing on intellectual capital measures
(Larsen et al, 1999) or accounts and audits (Liebowitz et al, 2000) but both groups of authors
question the generability of their studies. Other
studies, criticizing conventional performance
measures such as Return On Investment (used
by Anderson, 2002) and Economic Value Added,
used by multinationals like The Coca-Cola Company propose measures based on the Balanced
Scorecard (Knight, 1999) or other more abstract
and tailored to the company, like the Comprehensive Benefit Estimation (Firestone, 2001) and the
Cost of Information (Kingsley, 2002). In a recent
work the relevant literature summarized above
has been extensively reviewed (Papoutsakis and
Salvador Valles, 2006).
In most of the above empirical studies the
role of shared knowledge among company departments is not consistent, despite the fact that
the knowledge transfer process has been studied
extensively. Trust and influence have only been
recognized as antecedents of shared knowledge by
Nelson and Cooprider (1996), while Lee and Choi
(2003) consider trust and information technology
as knowledge creation enablers among seven oth-

209

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

ers. What is really missing is an integrative model


combining shared knowledge and information
technology with performance. Although several
studies investigate the relationship between KM
and performance (Nelson and Cooprider, 1996;
Chong et al, 2000; Firestone, 2001) or IT and
KM (Lee and Choi, 2003), they fail to explore
the relationships among KM, IT and performance
simultaneously.
It is believed that if managers become conscious of the fact that these relationships have
interactive features, they can stand a much better
chance of improving the performance of their
department or company. Measuring the impact
of shared knowledge and IT upon manufacturing performance is not an easy task as this will
strongly affect the behaviour of managers and
employees not only of the manufacturing group,
but those of the collaborating groups (in our case
the quality and R&D groups). Regarding social
knowledge, we have to consider that it exists in
the relationships, not in the individuals themselves
and thus it requires mutual commitment, since if
one party withdraws it disappears. It is under this
perspective that we have built and empirically
tested the evaluation model proposed in the following section.

PROPOSED MODEL
Aiming to gain insight into the essential factors
influencing manufacturing performance, the
development and testing of a conceptual model
containing the minimum selected theoretical
constructs, is considered. Three have been our
major concerns, upon building our research model.
First, we did not want to propose a model that
delineates every possible variable or process that
affects manufacturing performance. Second, we
wanted to focus on shared knowledge as the leading expression of knowledge management, among
the manufacturing, quality and R&D groups of a
firm. Third, information technology, in our model,

210

has been perceived to affect both manufacturing


performance and shared knowledge.
To assess the type of knowledge to be shared
was also an interesting question. Von Krogh,
Ichijo & Nonaka (2000) define knowledge as
a justified true belief: when somebody creates
knowledge, he or she makes sense out of a new
situation by holding justified beliefs and committing to them. The emphasis in this definition
is on the conscious act of creating meaning. In
our study, we focused on collective knowledge
that entails notions of collective belief, truth
and justification (Corlett, 1996). Our analysis
insisted on particular conditions of inter-group,
justified true acceptance which is necessary for
collective knowledge. According to Corlett,
what makes belief, acceptance, justification and
knowledge collective is that they are the results
of human decision-makers related to one another
in groups (2007, p.245). Obviously, each one
represents his or her group interests.
The road to sharing knowledge lies through
individuals, mostly scientists in our study, and
is based upon building social relationships and
trust, deep dialogue and creative abrasion. There
is a need of diversity of ideas and an environment
where failures and reflection are valued as learning
enablers. Science is the process used everyday to
logically complete thoughts through inference of
facts determined by calculated experiments. As
science itself has developed, the so produced scientific knowledge has developed a broader usage
within scientists. The development of scientific
methods has made a significant contribution to
our understanding of scientific knowledge. To
be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be
based on the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation
and testing of hypotheses.
The social dimension of scientific knowledge
is of significant importance, as well. We perceive
the social character of science as a matter of the
aggregation of individuals, not their interactions,
and social knowledge as simply the additive

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

outcome of mostly scientists, members of the


three groups, making sound scientific judgments.
Philosophers concerned to defend the social
character of knowledge and to explore the social
dimension of scientific practice (Laudan, 1984;
Brown 1989; Goldman, 1995) have approaches
that differ in their details but they agree in stating
that scientists are persuaded by what they regard
as the best evidence or argument, the evidence
most indicative of the truth by their lights, and in
maintaining that arguments and evidence are the
appropriate focus of attention for understanding
the production of scientific knowledge. Opposing
them, Jovchelovitch (2007) criticizes the narrow
association of knowledge with rationalism in the
sense of scientific knowledge. As a result, scientific knowledge is viewed as more valid than
everyday knowledge.
Therefore, we have opted for our model to
highlight a few key factors that can explain a large
proportion of the variation noted in manufacturing performance. We have modified the sharing
knowledge model validated and used by Nelson
& Cooprider (1996) and we enhanced it with
links allowing us to draw conclusions on the role
and contribution of information technology as an
enabler and facilitator towards both manufacturing performance and shared knowledge. Thus, the
proposed evaluation model is built to investigate
cause and effect links between sharing knowledge, its components, information technology
and manufacturing performance.
Both general and multiplicative methods are
used to measure the indicators, at least two for
every construct, and path analysis has been chosen
as the analytic technique in this study because it
assesses causal relationships (Pedhazur, 1982;
Wright, 1971). Pedhazur, building upon Wright,
states that path analysis is not a method for
discovering causes, but a method applied to causal
models formulated by the researcher on the basis
of knowledge and theoretical considerations. (p.
580). Path diagrams, although not essential for
numerical analysis, are useful tools for displaying

graphically the pattern of causal relations among


the set of variables under consideration. In this
respect we consider the model more appropriate
than the intellectual capital or the tangible and
intangible approach used in other studies.
Despite the fact that in recent years, social
and behavioural scientists have been showing a
steadily growing interest in studying patterns of
causation among variables, the concept of causation has generated a great deal of controversy
among both philosophers and scientists. Nonetheless, causal thinking plays a very important role
in scientific research. Even in the works of those
scientists who strongly deny the use of the term
causation, it is very common to encounter the use
of terms that indicate or imply causal thinking.
Thus, we can conclude that scientists, in general,
seem to have a need to resort to causal frameworks,
even though on philosophical grounds they may
have reservations about the concept of causation.
Schematically, our empirical evaluation model
illustrates the relationships among the five variables as shown in Figure 1. Our seven hypotheses
correspond to the causal links of Figure 1 and

Figure 1. The shared knowledge and information


technology evaluation model

211

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

derive from theoretical statements found in the


literature related to knowledge management and
information systems and technology. In the following section, we shall elaborate upon the variables
incorporated in our model and, at the same time,
we shall present our investigation hypotheses.
Finally, it is important to bear in mind that
path analysis is a method, and as such its valid
application is subject to the competency of the
researcher using it and the soundness of the theory that is being tested. Finally, it is the explanatory scheme of the researcher that determines the
type of analysis to be applied to data, and not the
other way around.

VARIABLES AND HYPOTHESES


Shared Knowledge
Sharing of knowledge is a process distinct from
managerial communication, which also deserves
consideration. Nelson & Cooprider (1996, p. 411)
define Shared Knowledge as an understanding
and appreciation among groups and their managers, for the technologies and processes that
affect their mutual performance. Appreciation
and understanding are the two core elements of
shared knowledge. Appreciation among diverse
groups must be characterized by sensitivity to
the point of view and interpretation of the other
group, in order to overcome the barriers caused
by the different environments and languages used.
A deeper level of knowledge must be shared in
order to achieve mutual understanding and this is
often characterized as organizational knowledge
Badaracco (1991).
Lack of this organizational and cross-functionally shared knowledge may result in loses
of Manufacturing group performance, while its
presence may lead to better performance. As we
do not have a priori reasons to expect a different
relationship, it is here that we are founding our
first hypothesis.

212

Hypothesis 1. Shared knowledge among Manufacturing, R&D and Quality groups, as perceived by
the manufacturing organization, leads to improved
manufacturing group performance.
In an effort to make more comprehensible
the relationship between shared knowledge and
the manufacturing group performance, we shall
now define the two components or antecedents of
shared knowledge: Trust and Influence.

Trust
The significance of trust has been given considerable attention and has even been described as
a business imperative (Davidow and Malone,
1992; Drucker, 1993 among others). In rather
similar ways, trust has been defined as a set of
expectations shared by all those in an exchange
(Zucker, 1986) or as the expectation shared by the
[involved] groups that they will meet their commitments to each other (Nelson and Cooprider,
1996, p. 413) or finally as maintaining reciprocal faith in each other in terms of intention and
behaviors (Lee and Choi, 2003, p. 190).
Szulanski (1996) empirically found that the
lack of trust among employees is one of the key
barriers against knowledge sharing and that the increase in knowledge sharing brought on by mutual
trust results in knowledge creation. In the model
proposed for this study, it is assumed that Manufacturing, R&D and Quality groups work better
in an atmosphere of mutual trust based on mutual
commitment and a stable long-term relationship,
which is the foundation for our conceptualization
of trust. We, thus, hypothesize that mutual trust is
a determinant of shared knowledge and it is here
that we advance our second hypothesis.
Hypothesis 2. The perception of increased levels
of mutual trust among Manufacturing, R&D and
Quality groups leads to increased levels of shared
knowledge among these groups.

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

Influence
As organizational groups engaged in joint work
are often dependent upon each other, influence
relationships are created. One way influence is
developed, is through the law of reciprocity (Cohen
and Bradford, 1989). People expect payback for
contribution to an exchange. The perception of
reciprocal benefits leads to mutual influence and
success in future exchanges among the groups.
Nelson and Cooprider (1996, p. 414) define mutual
influence as the ability of groups to affect the
key policies and decisions of each other. Consequently, we expect the following relationship
to hold true and it is here that we are basing our
third hypothesis.
Hypothesis 3. Increased levels of mutual influence
among manufacturing, R&D and Quality groups
lead to increased levels of shared knowledge
among these groups.
The two important aspects with regard to shared
knowledge are demonstrated in the evaluation
model used for this research (Figure 1). First,
mutual trust and influence are presented as antecedents of shared knowledge, and second, shared
knowledge is presented as a mediating variable
between mutual trust and influence, leading to
manufacturing group performance. Therefore,
we can hypothesize:
Hypothesis 4. Shared knowledge acts as a mediating variable between mutual trust and influence
and manufacturing performance.
As we have no a priori reasons to exclude that
mutual trust and influence could also possibly affect manufacturing performance directly, we are
here introducing our fifth hypothesis.
Hypothesis 5. There is a positive relationship
between mutual trust and manufacturing perfor-

mance, as well as between mutual influence and


manufacturing performance.

Information Technology
Davenport & Short (1990, p. 11) define Information Technology (IT) as the capabilities
offered by computers, software applications, and
telecommunications and further explain that IT
should be viewed as more than an automating or
mechanizing force; it can fundamentally reshape
the way business is done (p. 12) and that IT can
make it possible for employees scattered around
the world to work as a team (p. 19). Applegate,
McFarlan & McKenney (1999; p. vii) identify
IT as: computing, communications, business
solutions and services and further down (note in
p. 3) they explain that IT refers to technologies
of computers and telecommunications (including
data, voice, graphics, and full motion video).
In the new economy era, information technology has a very significant role to play in supporting
both communication and, in particular, knowledge
sharing. IT affects knowledge sharing in a variety
of ways. IT facilitates rapid collection, storage,
and exchange of knowledge in a scale not possible up to recent times, thus fully supporting the
knowledge sharing process (Roberts, 2000). Specially developed IT integrates fragmented flows
of knowledge, eliminating, in this way, barriers
to communication among departments (Gold et
al, 2001). Advanced IT (like electronic whiteboarding and videoconferencing) encourages all
forms of knowledge sharing and is not limited to
the transfer of explicit knowledge only (Riggins
and Rhee, 1999). Thus, we can hypothesize:
Hypothesis 6. There is a positive relationship
between IT support and the knowledge sharing
process.
The use of certain IT infrastructure such as
intranets, extranets, groupware, internet, etc

213

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

has been evaluated, in relationship to sharing


knowledge, by means of an ad hoc question. IT,
in our model, is perceived to affect manufacturing
performance, as well.

Manufacturing Performance
Under an industrial business management approach, manufacturing performance has three
main activities: (i) the selection of goals; (ii)
the consolidation of measurement information
relevant to an organizations progress against
these goals, and (iii) the interventions made by
managers in light of this information with a view
to improving future performance against these
goals. Although presented here sequentially,
typically all three activities will run concurrently,
with the interventions made by managers affecting
the choice of goals, the measurement information
monitored, and the activities being undertaken
within the organization.
For the purpose of our study, organizational
stakeholders in every participating company have
been questioned in order to assess the manufacturing group performance and, in addition, to compare
the manufacturing unit under investigation with
other units they have managed. Madnick (1991)
points out the major ways in which IT support
affects manufacturing group performance. First,
IT provides opportunities for increased interand intra-organizational connectivity and, thus,
increases both efficiency and effectiveness. Second, new IT architectures offer significant cost/
performance and capacity advances. And finally,
with IT support, adaptable organizational structures that lead to significant cost reductions are
made possible. As there are other variables (such
as employees competences and qualification, raw
material quality, technology level of the machinery in use, etc) which affect manufacturing group
performance and are not included in our model,
we can only hypothesize:

214

Hypothesis 7. There is a positive relationship


between IT support and the manufacturing group
performance.
The use of four IT functions (coordination
of business tasks, support of decision making,
facilitating teamwork and access to information
in data bases) has been evaluated, in relationship
to manufacturing performance, by means of an
ad hoc question.
The five variables incorporated in our model
are structured upon a socio-technical perspective that adopts an holistic approach (Pan and
Scarbrough 1998). Based on this view, mutual
trust and influence, related to the organizational
structure and culture as well as to the employees,
are considered social variables while, on the other
hand, IT is considered a technical variable. For
purposes of clarity, most studies consider the
impact of social and technical variables independently, a precaution we are also adopting in this
study. In the next section, we are presenting the
methodology of our research.

RESEARCH DESIGN
In an ideal situation, investigation samples are
selected randomly. This is done, among other
reasons, for the external validity criteria to be a
priori fulfilled. The maxim applies to the selection of companies, manufacturing units, and, to
a certain extent, to the selection of individuals
who answer the questionnaires. As the sample
of our study included every company that has
accepted to participate we can not disregard a
possible selection bias. Finally 51 medium to
large size industrial companies, representing 5
sectors (alimentation, automotive, chemical and
pharmaceutical, electro-mechanical, and textile)
participated in the research. The unit of analysis
is the manufacturing group, since the intent of
this study is to explain the relationship of organizational subunits (the three collaborating groups)

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

rather than that of individuals. The size of the


company has been used as a criterion and it was
convenient that several of the selected companies
had multiple manufacturing groups (or departments/lines as they were named) who cooperated
with a central R&D and/or quality group.
This has allowed for the research to be addressed to a big number of manufacturing groups,
out of which 112 have participated by responding
to the relevant questionnaires. Table 1 shows the
industrial sectors represented, the number of companies contacted and participated as well as the
identified and participating manufacturing units
for each one of them. The final sample size, of
112 manufacturing units, is considered sufficient
in order to perform path analysis (Pedhazur 1982)
and the participation rates achieved in our study
(62% at company level and 68% at the unit of
analysis level) are considered satisfactory (Cook
and Campbell, 1979).
The research responders have been chosen
based on the key-informant methodology developed by Phillips and Bagozzi (1986) and includedfor each companymanufacturing, R&D
and quality group managers or their deputies, as
well as senior managers. As the measurement of
organizational characteristics requires research
methods different from those used for measuring
the characteristics of individuals, key-informant
methodology is a frequently adopted approach.
(Table 1)

Two symmetrical relationship questionnaires,


worded in a reverse form, were addressed to Production and Quality or R&D managers -and their
assistants- and aimed at portraying the opinion
and the attitude of the two collaborating groups
towards each other, in terms of sharing knowledge. In addition, the role and level of contribution of Information Technology, both as a tool
and/or enabler in supporting sharing knowledge
among the collaborating groups was investigated
and a last, ad hoc question evaluated the use of
commonly used IT infrastructure for inter-firm
knowledge sharing.
A third, performance questionnaire attempting to measure manufacturing group performance was addressed to senior managers or their
assistants. They have been asked to compare the
manufacturing group under question, to other
comparable manufacturing groups they have
managed. In addition, the level of contribution of
Information Technology to manufacturing group
performance was investigated and again, a last ad
hoc question evaluated the use of specific IT functions on four knowledge sharing issues, closely
related to the group performance. The questions
used, with their indicative numbers, are listed in
Appendix I, where we analyze the indicators used
for each construct measurement.
The two relationship questionnaires were pilot tested using Production and Quality or R&D
managers, and the performance questionnaire was

Table 1. Study participants by sector, company and unit of analysis


Sector

Companies

Manufacturing Units

Contacted

Participated

Identified

Participated

Alimentation

26

14

47

31

Automotive

25

15

Chemical & Pharmaceutical

22

19

Electro-Mechanical

25

18

54

35

Textile

16

17

12

Total

82

51 (62%)

165

112 (68%)

215

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

tested using senior executives from a small group


of companies not participating in the final phase
of our research. Following the completion of each
pilot questionnaire, the pilot test informant was
debriefed to determine if any questions were confusing for any reason. They were also questioned,
whether in their opinion, any significant indicators
have been left out of the questionnaire. Based on
the results of the pilot test, a number of initially
used questions were determined to be poor and
were deleted or rephrased. The most important
lessons learned through design and pilot testing
of the questionnaires are:
a. In designing the questions, it is essential, to
word them in as simple terms as possible
and to anchor each question to one specific
relationship;
b. Each question must be customized to include
the exact name of the department, as it is
used in the company in question.
Despite the above precautions we experienced
that the key-informant does not always share the
same understanding with the researcher regarding
the terminology in use.
Two types of measures have been used to assess
the organizational characteristics of shared knowledge, mutual trust, mutual influence, information
technology and manufacturing performance.
General measures, where each informant is asked
to assess the overall level of interaction for a
specific characteristic of a particular relationship
and multiplicative or interaction measures, where
each informant is asked, for example, to assess the
role of manufacturing and either R&D or quality
group for each characteristic separately. Using the
conceptualization of fit as interaction, proposed
by Venkatraman (1989), the measurements have
been operationalized as manufacturing role X
R&D or quality role, by multiplying the two
responses together.

216

There are a number of advantages to this measurement scheme, as indicated by Churchill (1979)
and Campbell and Fiske (1959): (a) the two types
of measures (general and multiplicative) can be
thought of as different methods; (b) it provides a
stronger test of the validity of the measurement
scheme, and (c) it balances possible threats to
validity inherent in either type alone.
Manufacturing group performance has been
conceptualized in two parts; as operational and
service manufacturing performance. Operational
or inward performance is operationalized as: (a)
the quality of the manufacturing groups work
product; (b) the ability of the manufacturing group
to meet its organizational commitment, and (c) the
ability of the manufacturing organization to meet
its goals (first three questions of the performance
questionnaire). Service or outward performance
is operationalized as: (a) the ability of the manufacturing group to react quickly to R&D and/or
quality needs, (b) its responsiveness to the R&D
and/or quality group and (c) the contribution that
the manufacturing group has made to the R&D and/
or quality groups success in meeting its strategic
goals (questions four to six of the performance
questionnaire).

ANALYSIS OF THE RESULTS


In order to assess the validity of our evaluation
model (Figure 1) we empirically tested it using
path analysis as the method for studying patterns of
causation within the set of independent, mediating
and dependent variables used in our evaluation
model. For the casual model under consideration,
the following preconditions, given by Pedhazur
(1982) are essential:
1. The relations among the variables in the
model are linear, additive and causal.
2. Each residual is not correlated with the
variables that precede it in the model.

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

This implies that:


a. The residuals are not correlated among
themselves
b. All relevant variables are included in the
model
c. Each endogenous variable is perceived as
linear combination of exogenous and/or
endogenous variables in the model plus a
residual
d. Exogenous variables are treated as given
and when are correlated among themselves,
these correlations are also treated as given
and remain unanalyzed.
3. There is a one-way causal flow in the
system.
4. The variables are measured on an
interval scale.
5. The variables are measured without
error.
And Pedhazur concludes that given the
above assumptions, the method of path analysis
reduces to the solution of one or more multiple
linear regression analyses (p. 580).

It is under these assumptions that we have concluded to the use of Figure 2, as the research model
for our investigation. With one exception: Not all
variables affecting Manufacturing Performance
are included in the model. Essential variables like
skills and qualification of workers, technological
level of the machinery in use, and quality of the
raw material just to mention some very basic
ones- have not been taken into consideration
simply because they do not relate to the focus
of our investigation, which is the contribution of
shared knowledge and information technology to
manufacturing performance. This means that the
result of the regression of Manufacturing Performance versus Shared Knowledge could only be
considered as a partial causal effect.
Two multiple regressions were run for each of
the two dependent variables, manufacturing performance and shared knowledge. Testing the
hypotheses requires testing the significance of
paths I, II, III, Va, Vb, VI and VII as presented in
Figure 1. The results of this analysis are schematically shown in Figure 2 and in the generic
regression equations below:
For manufacturing performance:

Figure 2. Regressions in the evaluation model

217

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

MPC = + 1 SKC + 2 MTC + 3 MIC + 4


ITmpC + e
(8.1)
For shared knowledge:
SKC = + 1 MTC + 2 MIC + 3 ITskC + e
(8.2)
Two points need to be clarified in the above
equations:
1. s, the normalized path coefficients, indicate
the direct impact of a variable hypothesized
as a cause on a variable taken as an effect.
Wright (1934) defines a path coefficient as:
The fraction of the standard deviation of
the dependent variable (with the appropriate
sign) for which the designated factor [here,
the independent or mediating variable] is
directly responsible (p. 162). Under the
previously analyzed preconditions, path
coefficients take the form of ordinary least
squares solutions for the s (Pedhazur 1982,
pp. 582-584).
The third letter C, added to the two-letter acronym used for each one of the variables, indicates
that we are referring to its Construct. As at least
two indicators have been used to assess every
variable in the research model, the construct is
the mean of these indicators. In the acronym of
information technology, the indicators mp and sk
are used to distinguish: (a) ITskC, the IT construct
measured through the two relationship questionnaires, in reference to shared knowledge, and
(b) ITmpC, the IT construct measured through
the performance questionnaire, in reference to
manufacturing performance. As these two types
of questionnaires have been filled in by different
key-informants we could not use a possible IT
Construct (ITC) produced as the mean of ITskC
and ITmpC.
Regressions in the evaluation model have been
conducted in hierarchical order. First, we examined

218

the relationship between manufacturing performance and each one of the variables affecting it;
shared knowledge, mutual trust and influence, and
information technology as described in the first
regression equation. And the resulting equation is:
MPC = 6.98 + 0.354 MTC 0.0364 MIC + 0.225
SKC + 0.259 ITmpC + e1
At this point, and for the better understanding
of the analysis following, some more statistical
terms need to be clarified:
1. R2, in the case of multiple independent
variables, indicates the squared multiple
correlation, i.e. the proportion of variance
of the dependent variable accounted for by
the independent variables.
2. The t-value (- < t >+.) determines the
level of significance of the s, and finally,
3. F, the ratio of the mean square regression to
the mean square residual, provides a statistic
for testing the null hypothesis. When the
calculated F exceeds the tabled value of F,
with the associated degrees of freedom and
at a preselected level of significance p (i.e.
p=0.000, or p<.05), the conclusion is to reject
the null hypothesis.
In this first regression mutual trust, information
technologies and shared knowledge are found to
affect manufacturing performance significantly,
while mutual influence does not (=-0,0364, t=0.43, p=0.668). The regression model described by
the equation 5.1 is significant (F=16.72, p=0.000),
but R2=0.362 suggests that only 36.2 percent of
the variance is explained by the five variables
involved. This is something we expected, as we
have already noted, upon founding hypothesis 7,
that there are significant factors affecting manufacturing performance which are not included in
our model.
Then, we examined the relationship among
shared knowledge, mutual trust and influence, and

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

information technology, as described by the second regression equation, and here are the results:
SKC = 1.08 + 0.639 MTC + 0.258 MIC + 0.101
ITskC + e2
In this second regression, mutual trust, mutual
influence and information technology are all
found to affect shared knowledge with variable
strengths. The regression model described by the
equation 5.2 is significant (F=50.55, p=0.000)
and R2=0.573 suggests that 57.3 percent of the
variance is explained by these three variables.
Consistency of the model with the data,
however, does not constitute proof of the theory;
at best it only provides support to it. Following
Poppers (1959) basic argument that all one can
achieve through investigation is the falsification
of theory, we would have to conclude that the
theory has survived the test, in that it has not been
disconfirmed. Thus, in direct connection with our
investigation hypotheses, the regression results
indicate that:
1. Hypotheses 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7 are directly supported by the significance of paths I, II, III,
VI and VII respectively. This means that: (a)
Shared knowledge among Manufacturing,
R&D and Quality groups, as perceived by
the manufacturing organization, leads to improved manufacturing group performance.
(b) The perception of increased levels of
mutual trust among Manufacturing, R&D
and Quality groups leads to increased levels
of shared knowledge among these groups. (c)
Increased levels of mutual influence among
Manufacturing, R&D and Quality groups
lead to increased levels of shared knowledge
among these groups. (d) There is a positive
relationship between IT support and the
Knowledge sharing process. (e) There is a
positive relationship between IT support and
the manufacturing group performance.

2. Hypotheses 4 and 5 are each only partially


supported as they could not both together
stand true. This means that: (a) Shared knowledge acts as a mediating variable only for
mutual influence, while mutual trust appears
to also significantly affect manufacturing
performance in a direct way (significance
of path Va). (b) Mutual influence does not
directly affect manufacturing performance
(statistically insignificant beta for path Vb).
There is an important note to be made at this
point. To the extent that beta values reflect the
strength of the cause-effect relationship, we may
say that IT does not affect shared knowledge in the
same significant way that it affects manufacturing
performance. This result may first be explained
by the fact that information technologies mainly
affect transfer and sharing of explicit knowledge,
while in the environment of our study (shared
knowledge among manufacturing, quality and
R&D groups) tacit knowledge plays a dominant
role. The result is also in accordance with findings of other studies. Lee and Choi (2003) have
found that IT support is significantly related only
with knowledge combination (explicit to explicit
knowledge transactions) while they have noticed
no significant relation with any of the other three
knowledge creation processes (socialization,
externalization and internalization) where tacit
knowledge is also involved.
The second explanation has to do with the
research instruments. In our investigation, the
two constructs of information technology (ITskC
and ITmpC) were measured on two separate
instruments, the symmetrical relationship questionnaires, and the performance questionnaire.
The two separate instruments were filled out by
different key-informants at different levels within
the organization. It is anticipated that collaborating
group managers on one hand, and senior managers on the other, might have different background
conditions, when asked to judge the same concept.
Pedhazur (1982) attributes these differences to

219

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

the personal characteristics of key-informers,


like cognitive styles, self-concept, ego strength
and attitudes.

Use of IT Infrastructure
The last question in the two relationship questionnaires is examining the use of certain IT
infrastructure as tools and enablers for sharing
knowledge, among Manufacturing, Quality and/
or R&D groups. Study results indicate that managers or their deputies of the three collaborating
groups strongly use E-mail (86.6%), Intranets
(71%) and Internet (42.85%), and at lower, but
still noteworthy percentages, Data Warehouse
software (30%), Extranets (23.65%), Groupware
software (20.95) and Workflow software (11.6%)
in their daily work. Percentages here and in the
following paragraph refer to the sum of strong
answers (grouped Likert ratings 5, 6 and 7).

Use of IT Functions
The last question in the manufacturing performance questionnaire is investigating the use of
certain IT functions by the company as a whole.
According to our study, senior managers report that
group managers use at relatively high percentages
all four IT functions, in order to: facilitate access
of information in Data Bases (84.4%), coordinate
business tasks (82.6%), facilitate team members
to work together (76.4%) and support decisions
making (69.2%).

Confirmatory Tests
Four confirmatory tests of the research model
were performed and the results obtained are
briefly presented here. Cronbachs alphas (all
ranged from 0.7819 to 0.9994) were utilized to
reassure the reliability of the instruments used
(Nunnally, 1978).
Convergent and discriminant validity has been
checked by the Multi-Trait Multi-Method correla-

220

tion matrix and all correlations within constructs


have been found to be higher than any correlations
across constructs (Campbell and Fiske, 1959).
Linearity and collinearity tests are essential for
the assumptions of regression analysis to be met.
Because the scatter plots of individual variables
did not indicate any nonlinear relationships, the
linearity was guaranteed. In addition, we tested the
plots of residuals against the explanatory variables.
As they showed no model inadequacies, we assume
that no variable violates the constant variance.
Collinearity among the variables involved in the
two regression equations was tested by the Variance Inflation Factors which in our study ranged
from 1.1 to 2.3 (in the first regression equation)
and from 1.1 to 1.3 in the second. Hence, we have
taken for granted that there is no multicollinearity
problem (Neter et al, 1996).
Finally, the analysis of variance was used to
check via an alternative method, two of the results
obtained through Multiple Regression (Pedhazur,
1982; Draper and Smith, 1980).
a. The corresponding values of r (or R-Sq) were
re-calculated and found in accordance with
the previously calculated Rs:
r= 0.3846 compared to R= 0.362 for the first
regression equation, and
r=0.58406 compared to R= 0. 573 for the
second regression equation.
b. The regression models used were found
significant because both F-ratios were larger
than the corresponding critical F-values:
F=16.72 >> F(0.01; 4, 107) = 3.50 for the
first regression equation, and
F=50.55 >> F(0.01; 3, 108) = 3.96 for the
second regression equation.
The statistical results of the two regression
equations and those of the confirmatory tests are
presented in Appendix II.

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

LIMITATIONS AND
FUTURE RESEARCH

a. The development of mutual trust and influence leading to shared knowledge and the
influence of information technology are all
ongoing phenomena. In our study, these
constructs were measured at a static point
in time rather than as they develop. A future research could possibly investigate the
relationship of ongoing changes to manufacturing group performance, maintaining
the same company sample. It would also
be interesting to possibly relate the changes
noted over time, with actual changes in
both the social (mutual trust and influence)
and the technical (information technology)
subsystems within the organization.
b. The study was conducted in Spain. A new
multinational study in three more European
Union countries, namely Finland, Greece
and Hungary is currently under development
and we hope that it will further support our
findings.

ing to become reality. In such an environment


scientists from different groups (Manufacturing,
Quality and R&D) feel comfortable to look for
others with the missing piece of individual and
social knowledge to share. As shown by this
study, influence is the second necessary condition
for, and can lead to cooperative behavior among
individuals and groups, especially where tacit
knowledge has to be shared. It is only in such an
environment that the IT made available may lead
to innovative products.
The findings of this study indicate that Manufacturing, Quality and R&D groups have the opportunity to develop mutual trust and influence
through repeated periods of positive face-to-face
or IT-based communication, social interaction and
common goal accomplishment. Such behavioral
features result to increased shared knowledge
regarding the groups common problems, procedures and know-how. It is clearly illustrated
that it is in the hands of management to increase
manufacturing performance by improving the
channels for individual and social knowledge to
be shared among the three groups and by selecting the information technologies that best fit the
innovative efforts and competitive strategy of
their organization.

CONCLUSION

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supporting collaboration. Trust has been identified, through our study, as one of the companys
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KEY TERMS AND DEFINITIONS


Shared Knowledge: an understanding
and appreciation among [collaborating] groups
and their managers, for the technologies and
processes that affect their mutual performance
(Nelson & Cooprider 1996, p. 411). Appreciation
and understanding are the two core elements of
shared knowledge. Appreciation among diverse
groups must be characterized by sensitivity to
the point of view and interpretation of the other
group, in order to overcome the barriers caused
by the different environments and languages used.
A deeper level of knowledge must be shared in
order to achieve mutual understanding and this is
often characterized as organizational knowledge
Badaracco (1991).
Scientific Knowledge: Science is the process
used everyday to logically complete thoughts
through inference of facts determined by calculated experiments. As science itself has developed, the so produced scientific knowledge has
developed a broader usage within scientists. The
development of scientific methods has made a
significant contribution to our understanding of
scientific knowledge. To be termed scientific, a
method of inquiry must be based on the collection

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

of data through observation and experimentation,


and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.
Social Knowledge: Individuals develop social knowledge through their interactions with
the social environment. Stable systems of social
knowledge are organized around certain domains;
the collaborating groups in our study. According
to Turiel (1983) the acquisition of social knowledge can be interpreted in two different ways: (i)
it can be knowledge transmitted to the individual
by other persons, and in this case the knowledge
acquired is dependent on what is transmitted; or
(ii) it can be knowledge constructed by individuals specifically about certain social phenomena.
The social dimension of scientific knowledge is
of significant importance, as well. We perceive
the social character of science as a matter of the
aggregation of individuals, not their interactions,
and social knowledge as simply the additive outcome of mostly scientists, members of the three
groups, making sound scientific judgments.
Trust: has been defined as a set of expectations
shared by all those in an exchange (Zucker, 1986)
or as the expectation shared by the [involved]
groups that they will meet their commitments to
each other (Nelson and Cooprider, 1996, p. 413)
or finally as maintaining reciprocal faith in
each other in terms of intention and behaviors
(Lee and Choi, 2003, p. 190). The significance
of trust has been given considerable attention and
has even been described as a business imperative (Davidow and Malone, 1992; Drucker, 1993
among others).
Influence: Nelson and Cooprider (1996, p.
414) define mutual influence as the ability of
groups to affect the key policies and decisions of
each other. As organizational groups engaged in
joint work are often dependent upon each other,
influence relationships are created. One way influence is developed, is through the law of reciproc-

ity. People expect payback for contribution to an


exchange. The perception of reciprocal benefits
leads to mutual influence and success in future
exchanges among the groups. In our study, trust
and influence have been recognized as antecedents
of shared knowledge.
Information Technology: Davenport & Short
(1990, p. 11) define Information Technology
(IT) as the capabilities offered by computers,
software applications, and telecommunications
and further explain that IT should be viewed as
more than an automating or mechanizing force;
it can fundamentally reshape the way business
is done (p. 12) and that IT can make it possible for employees scattered around the world
to work as a team (p. 19). Applegate, McFarlan
& McKenney (1999; p. vii) identify IT as:
computing, communications, business solutions
and services and further down (note in p. 3)
they explain that IT refers to technologies of
computers and telecommunications (including
data, voice, graphics, and full motion video).
Performance: Under an industrial business
management approach, manufacturing performance has three main activities: (i) the selection
of goals; (ii) the consolidation of measurement
information relevant to an organizations progress
against these goals, and (iii) the interventions made
by managers in light of this information with a
view to improving future performance against
these goals. Although presented here sequentially,
typically all three activities will run concurrently,
with the interventions made by managers affecting
the choice of goals, the measurement information
monitored, and the activities being undertaken
within the organization.

225

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

APPENDIX I: QUESTIONNAIRES AND CONSTRUCT MEASUREMENT


For reasons of economy of space the three Questionnaires (Relationship Questionnaires Type A and B
and Performance Questionnaire Type C) are not presented separately. All the questions are listed, with
their indicative number, upon analyzing the Indicators used for each Construct Measurement. In every
question below, titles in brackets were customized to reflect the exact names of the participating organizations and functional groups, as they are used in every firm.
1. RELATIONSHIP QUESTIONNAIRES (Type A and B) included twelve questions aiming to
measure:

Dependent or mediating variable Sharing Knowledge (3 questions)

Independent variable Mutual Trust (2 questions)

Independent variable Mutual Influence (4 questions)

The role and level of contribution of Information Technology (ITsk), both as a tool and/
or enabler in supporting sharing knowledge among Manufacturing, Quality and/or R&D
groups (2 questions)

The use of IT infrastructure under the above described concept (1 question with multiple
sub questions. Results are given in pie-chart form and are not presented here.)

Please characterize the general working relationship that currently exists between the
[Manufacturing] group and the [Quality or R&D] group (Questionnaire Type A), or
[Quality or R&D] group and the [Manufacturing] group (Questionnaire Type B).
Use Table 2 to measure constructs:
Table 2.
1

Extremely Weak

Weak

Moderately Weak

About Average

Moderately Strong

Strong

Extremely Strong

Shared Knowledge*
The three indicators of shared knowledge have been designed to assess the level of understanding or
appreciation which the members of the three groups have of each others work environments. Indicators
1 and 3 assess the level of appreciation that each participant has for what their partners (in the other
group) have accomplished, by using general and multiplicative assessments respectively. The second
indicator measures the level of understanding that the members of the three groups have of each others
work environments.
226

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

Shared Knowledge Indicator 1: (General Assessment, Mean 5.2991; SD 0.6957; Range 4)


A1/B1. The level of appreciation that the [Manufacturing] group and the [Quality or R&D] group have
for each others accomplishments is:
A1. (Mean 5.35714; SD 0.79250; Range 4)
B1. (Mean 5.24107; SD 0.84091; Range 4)
Shared Knowledge Indicator 2: (Multiplicative Assessment, Mean 25.152; SD 8.604; Range 44)
The product of the responses to the following:
A2. The level of understanding of the [Quality or R&D] group for the work environment (problems,
tasks, roles, etc) of the [Manufacturing] group is:
(Mean 4.84821; SD 1.10045; Range 6)
B2. The level of understanding of the [Manufacturing] group for the work environment (problems, tasks,
roles, etc) of the [Quality or R&D] group is:
(Mean 5.17857; SD 0.91252; Range 5)
Shared Knowledge Indicator 3: (Multiplicative Assessment, Mean 26.652; SD 8.157; Range 40)
The product of the responses to the following:
A3. The level of appreciation that the [Quality or R&D] group has for the accomplishments of the
[Manufacturing] group is:
(Mean 5.07143; SD 0.97458; Range 4)
B3. The level of appreciation that the [Manufacturing] group has for the accomplishments of the [Quality or R&D] group is:
(Mean 5.17857; SD 0.91252; Range 5)
Shared Knowledge Construct: The mean of the above indicators (Mean 19.034; SD 5.180; Range
23.667).

Mutual Trust*
The two indicators of predisposition measure the extent to which the two partner groups trust each other.
The first indicator directly assesses the level of trust between the groups, through a general assessment.
The second indicator is a multiplicative assessment that evaluates the reputation of each group for meeting its commitments.
Mutual Trust Indicator 1: (General Assessment, Mean 5.4509; SD 0.8620; Range 4)
A4/B4. The level of trust that exists between the [Manufacturing] group and the [Quality or R&D] group is:
A4: Mean 5.54464; SD 1.10599; Range 5
B4: Mean 5.35714; SD 0.92860; Range 4
Mutual Trust Indicator 2: (Multiplicative Assessment, Mean 28.304; SD 8.374; Range 43)
The product of the responses to the following:
A5: The reputation of the [Quality or R&D] group for meeting its commitments to the [Manufacturing]
group is: Mean 5.44643; SD 0.96646; Range 4
B5: The reputation of the [Manufacturing] group for meeting its commitments to the [Quality or R&D]
group is: Mean 5.13393; SD 0.97256; Range 6
Mutual Trust Construct: The mean of the above indicators, Mean 16.877; SD 4.452; Range 21.5.

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Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

Mutual Influence*
The three indicators of mutual influence assess the level of influence and the ability to affect that members of the groups have on each others key decisions and policies. The first indicator directly assesses
the level of influence and the ability to affect between the groups, through a general assessment. The
second indicator is a multiplicative assessment that evaluates the level of influence that the members
of the groups have on each others key decisions and policies. The third indicator is a multiplicative
assessment that evaluates the ability to affect that the members of the groups have on each others key
decisions and policies
Mutual Influence Indicator 1: (General Assessment, Mean 4.8973; SD 0.7478; Range3.75)
The average of the responses to the following:
A6/B6. In general, the level of influence that members of the [Manufacturing] Group and the [Quality
or R&D] have on each others key decisions and policies is:
A6: Mean 5.01786; SD 0.97705; Range 5
B6: Mean 4.85714; SD 0.98509; Range 5
A7/B7. In general, the ability of members of the [Manufacturing] group and the [Quality or R&D] group
to affect each others key decisions and policies is:
A7: Mean 5.00000; SD 1.04838; Range 5
B7: Mean 4.71429; SD 1.06904; Range 5
Mutual Influence Indicator 2: (Multiplicative Assessment, Mean 22.089; SD 7.986; Range 33)
The product of the responses to the following:
A8: In general, the level of influence that members of the [Quality or R&D] group have on key decisions
and policies of the [Manufacturing] group is:
Mean 4.81250; SD 0.92543; Range 4
B8: In general, the level of influence that members of the [Manufacturing] group have on key decisions
and policies of the [Quality or R&D] group is:
Mean 4.50893; SD 1.17017; Range 6
Mutual Influence Indicator 3: (Multiplicative Assessment, Mean 22.911; SD 7.905; Range 33)
The product of the responses to the following:
A9. In general, the ability of members of the [Quality or R&D] group to affect key policies and decisions
of the [Manufacturing] group is:
Mean 4.93750; SD 0.84129; Range 3
B9. In general, the ability of members of the [Manufacturing] group to affect key policies and decisions
of the [Quality or R&D] group is:
Mean 5.57143; SD 1.19845; Range 5
Mutual Influence Construct: The mean of the above indicators, Mean 16.632; SD 5.099; Range
22.750.
(*) Questionnaire items for shared knowledge, mutual trust and mutual influence used in our study had
been validated and used by Nelson and Cooprider (1996) upon exploring the concept of shared knowledge
between Information Systems (IS) groups and their line customers as a contributor to IS performance.

228

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

Information Technology and Sharing Knowledge (ITsk)


By means of the relationship questionnaires (Type A and B) we are measuring the role and level of
contribution of IT in supporting shared knowledge. We, thus, use the marker (sk) to distinguish from
the IT indicators used in the performance questionnaire.
ITsk Indicator 1: (Multiplicative Assessment, Mean 27.732; SD 8.514; Range 40)
The product of the responses to the following:
A.10: In general, the role and the level of contribution of Information Technology (IT) as a tool and/or
enabler, in supporting shared knowledge between [Manufacturing] group and [Quality or R&D]
group is: (Mean 5.25893; SD 0.8776; Range 4)
B.10: In general, the role and the level of contribution of Information Technology (IT) as a tool and/or
enabler, in supporting shared knowledge between [Quality or R&D] group and [Manufacturing]
group is: (Mean 5.19820; SD 1.10223; Range 5)
ITsk Indicator 2: (Multiplicative Assessment, Mean 29.223; SD 8.379; Range 33)
The product of the responses to the following:
A.11: In general, the use of the Information Technology (IT) infrastructure in the [Manufacturing] group
is: (Mean 5.21429; SD 0.90473; Range 5)
B.11: In general, the use of the Information Technology (IT) infrastructure in the [Quality or R&D]
group is: (Mean 5.54128; SD 0.95774; Range 4)
Information Technology and Sharing Knowledge Construct (ITskC): The mean of the above
indicators, Mean 28.478; SD 7.601; Range 34.
2. PERFORMANCE QUESTIONNAIRE (Type C) included nine questions aiming to measure:

Operational manufacturing performance (3 questions)

Service manufacturing performance (3 questions)

The level of contribution of Information Technology (ITmp) to Manufacturing group performance (2 questions)

The use of IT functions under the above described concept (1 question with multiple sub
questions. Results are given in pie-chart form and are not presented here.)
The following questions ask you to compare the [Manufacturing] group to other such Manufacturing groups. In relation to other comparable groups you have observed, how does the [Manufacturing]
group rate on the following:
Use Table 3 to measure constructs:

Table 3.
1

Non-Existent

Very Weak

Weak

About Average

Strong

Very Strong

Extremely
Strong

229

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

Manufacturing Performance
The indicators used to measure the two constructs of manufacturing performance in our study, are given
in detail, here below. For reasons related to our initial study, we treated the answers separately (A for
Manufacturing and B for Quality or R&D stakeholders), although this does not affect results here. As
in approximately 95 per cent of the manufacturing units under investigation, the two stakeholders that
completed the performance questionnaire were related, one to Production and the second to Quality
or R&D (in most cases Production or Quality Directors) we have used multiplicative assessments of
interaction for the questions relating manufacturing performance to collaboration among the groups.

A. Operational Manufacturing Performance


Operational MP Indicator 1: (Multiplicative Assessment)

The product of the two stakeholders responses (from Manufacturing and Quality or R&D) to the following:
C1. In general, the quality of the work produced by the [Manufacturing] group for the [Quality or R&D]
group is:
CA1: Mean 5.29464; SD 0.77852; Range 4
CB1: Mean 5.50000; SD 0.69749; Range 3
Operational MP Indicator 2: (General Assessment)
The average of the responses to the following:
C2. In general, the ability of the [Manufacturing] group to meet its organizational commitments (such
as project schedules and budget) is:
CA2: Mean 5.33929; SD 0.87563; Range 5
CB2: Mean 5.33929; SD 0.72972; Range 3
Operational MP Indicator 3: (General Assessment)
The average of the responses to the following:
C3. In general, the ability of the [Manufacturing] group to meet its goals is:
CA3: Mean 5.41964; SD 0.74300, Range 3
CB3: Mean 5.37500; SD 0.77256; Range 3
Operational MP Construct: The mean of the above indicators, Mean 13.385; SD 2.641; Range
14.333.

B. Service Manufacturing Performance


Service MP Indicator 1: (Multiplicative Assessment)
The product of the two stakeholders responses (from Manufacturing and Quality or R&D) to the following:
C4. In general, the ability of the [Manufacturing] group to react quickly to the [Quality or R&D] groups
changing business needs is:
CA4: Mean 5.29464; SD 0.92647; Range 4
CB4: Mean 5.41964; SD 0.71834; Range 4

230

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

Service MP Indicator 2: (Multiplicative Assessment)


The product of the two stakeholders responses (from Manufacturing and Quality or R&D) to the following:
C5. In general, the responsiveness of the [Manufacturing] group to the [Quality or R&D] group is:
CA5: Mean 5.18750; SD 0.92543; Range 4
CB5: Mean 5.27027; SD 0.79711; Range 4
Service MP Indicator 3: (Multiplicative Assessment)
The product of the two stakeholders responses (from Manufacturing and Quality or R&D) to the following:
C6. In general, the contribution that the [Manufacturing] group has made to the accomplishment of the
[Quality or R&D] groups strategic goals is:
CA6: Mean 5.41071; SD 0.95441; Range 5
CB6: Mean 5.25893; SD 0.86728; Range 4
Service MP Construct: The mean of the above indicators, Mean 28.591; SD 7.294; Range 37.667.
Manufacturing Performance Construct: The mean of Operational MP and Service MP constructs,
Mean 20.988; SD 4.658; Range 21.25.

Information Technology and Manufacturing Performance (ITmp)


By means of the performance questionnaire (Type C) we are measuring the role and level of contribution
of IT in supporting the performance of the manufacturing group. We therefore use the marker (mp) to
distinguish from the IT indicators used in the relationship questionnaires (Type A and B).
ITmp Indicator 1: (Multiplicative Assessment, Mean 28.348; SD 7.673; Range 41)
C.A7: In general, the level of the Information Technology (IT) Contribution to the [Manufacturing]
group performance is: (Mean 5.17857; SD 0.91252; Range 5)
C.B7: In general, the level of the Information Technology (IT) Contribution to the [Manufacturing]
group performance is: (Mean 5.38393; SD 0.72591; Range 4)
ITmp Indicator 2: (General Assessment, Mean 5.3170; SD 0.8383; Range 3.5)
CA/B8: In general, the use of the Information Technology (IT) infrastructure, among the three groups
is: (Mean 5.22321; SD 0.94640; Range 4)
Information Technology and Manufacturing Performance Construct (ITmpC): The mean of
the above indicators, Mean 16.833; SD 4.069; Range 21.75.
It is noticeable that no significant difference is observed between responders of questionnaires A and
B, regarding questions C.1 to C.7. Questions CA/B.8, due to their nature, have been analyzed as one.

Appendix II: Regressions and Confirmatory Tests


General Note: Symbols used in our study and in the MINITAB extracts, included in the Appendixes,
correlate as following:
= Coef, t = T, p = P, r = R-Sq, R2 = R-Sq(adj), and F = F.
ANOVA Table symbols:
DF=Degrees of Freedom, SS=Sums of Squares, MS=Mean Squares (SSR = SS Residual, SSTO = SS Total)
231

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

First Regression: MPC vs (MTC, MIC, SKC, ITmpC)


The regression equation is
MPC=media(OMPC,SMPC) = 6.98 + 0.354 MTC=media(MT1,MT2)
- 0.0364 MIC=media(MI1,MI2,MI3)
+ 0.225 SKC=media(SK1,SK2,SK3)
+ 0.259 ITmpC=media(ITmp1,ITmp2)
Predictor
Coef SE Coef
T
P
Constant
6.981
1.873
3.73 0.000
MTC=media(MT1,MT2)
0.3535
0.1136
3.11 0.002
MIC=media(MI1,MI2,MI3)
-0.03643 0.08470 -0.43 0.668
SKC=media(SK1,SK2,SK3)
0.2248
0.1034
2.17 0.032
ITmpC=media(ITmp1,ITmp2)
0.25948 0.09151
2.84 0.005
S = 3.72201
R-Sq = 38.5%
R-Sq(adj) = 36.2%

VIF
2.1
1.5
2.3
1.1

Analysis of Variance
Source
DF
SS
Regression
4
926.38
Residual Error 107 1482.31
Total
111 2408.69
Source
DF
MTC=media(MT1,MT2)
1
MIC=media(MI1,MI2,MI3)
1
SKC=media(SK1,SK2,SK3)
1
ITmpC=media(ITmp1,ITmp2)
1

MS
231.60
13.85

F
16.72

P
0.000

Seq SS
730.61
12.91
71.49
111.38

Unusual Observations
Obs
38
58
59
107
Obs
38
58
59
107

MTC=media(MT1,MT2)
15.3
8.0
18.0
20.8
St Resid
2.36R
-2.35R
-2.36R
-1.45 X

MPC=media(OMPC,SMPC)
28.083
9.250
13.583
18.917

Fit
19.417
17.651
22.143
23.830

R denotes an observation with a large standardized residual.


X denotes an observation whose X value gives it large influence.

232

SE Fit
0.619
1.010
0.849
1.523

Residual
8.666
-8.401
-8.559
-4.913

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

Second Regression: SKC vs (MTC, MIC, ITskC)


The regression equation is
SKC=media(SK1,SK2,SK3) = 1.08 + 0.639 MTC=media(MT1,MT2)
+ 0.258 MIC=media(MI1,MI2,MI3)
+ 0.101 ITskC=media(ITsk1,ITsk2)
Predictor
Coef SE Coef
T
P VIF
Constant
1.078
1.594 0.68 0.500
MTC=media(MT1,MT2)
0.63865 0.08285 7.71 0.000 1.3
MIC=media(MI1,MI2,MI3)
0.25800 0.07177 3.59 0.000 1.3
ITskC=media(ITsk1,ITsk2) 0.10137 0.04486 2.26 0.026 1.1
S = 3.38672
R-Sq = 58.4%
R-Sq(adj) = 57.3%

Analysis of Variance
Source
DF
SS
Regression
3 1739.43
Residual Error 108 1238.74
Total
111 2978.17
Source
DF
MTC=media(MT1,MT2)
1
MIC=media(MI1,MI2,MI3)
1
ITskC=media(ITsk1,ITsk2)
1

MS
579.81
11.47

F
50.55

P
0.000

Seq SS
1496.66
184.22
58.56

Unusual Observations
Obs
3
10
13
42
48
58
64
68
74
107
Obs
3
10
13
42
48

MTC=media(MT1,MT2)
17.5
21.5
23.8
15.0
15.5
8.0
17.3
10.5
21.5
20.8
St Resid
-2.19R
2.22R
-2.19R
2.15R
0.02 X

SKC=media(SK1,SK2,SK3)
9.333
30.333
17.833
23.833
16.167
14.167
10.000
6.667
15.333
25.833

Fit
16.556
23.139
25.144
16.661
16.116
11.786
20.044
13.650
24.367
18.535

SE Fit
0.763
1.005
0.603
0.578
1.227
1.121
0.461
0.561
0.585
1.201

Residual
-7.222
7.195
-7.311
7.172
0.051
2.380
-10.044
-6.984
-9.034
7.299

233

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

58
64
68
74
107

0.74 X
-2.99R
-2.09R
-2.71R
2.30RX

R denotes an observation with a large standardized residual.


X denotes an observation whose X value gives it large influence.

Confirmatory Tests
1 Cronbachs alphas

Have been calculated, for all variables involved, according to the formula:

n
i

1
n 1
x2

Where for the variable: c1,..., ci ,..., cn

2 = variance of ci and sx2 = variance of x = ci


i

Shared Knowledge (SKC) = 0.9980971


Mutual Trust (MTC) = 0.99893219
Mutual Influence (MTC) = 0.99789307
Information Technology (ITskC) = 0.78191053
Information Technology (ITmpC) = 0.99919877
Manufacturing Performance (MPC) = 0.99870396
Operational Manufacturing Performance (OMPC) = 0.99935936
Service Manufacturing Performance (SMPC) = 0.81379442
2 MTMM Correlation Matrix
Correlations: MT1; MT2; MI1; MI2; MI3; SK1; SK2; SK3; OMPC; SMPC; ITskC; ITmpC

MT2=A5*B5
MI1=media(MI
MI2=A8*B8
MI3=A9*B9
SK1=media(A1

234

MT1
0.682
0.574
0.260
0.371
0.581

MT2
0.478
0.327
0.493
0.612

MI1

0.691
0.7370.714
0.583

MI2

0.400

Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry

SK2=A2*B2
SK3=A3*B3
OMPC=media(C
SMPC=media(C
ITskC=media(
ITmpC=media(
SK1=media(A1
SK2=A2*B2
SK3=A3*B3
OMPC=media(C
SMPC=media(C
ITskC=media(
ITmpC=media(
SMPC=media(C
ITskC=media(
ITmpC=media(

0.608
0.612
0.524
0.457
0.279
0.057
MI3
0.464
0.449
0.574
0.390
0.303
0.335
0.217
OMPC
0.691
0.390
0.471

0.569
0.650
0.486
0.506
0.287
0.247
SK1

0.485
0.603
0.515
0.477
0.338
0.262
SK2

0.375
0.373
0.301
0.163
0.156
0.319
SK3

0.597
0.7670.603
0.448
0.395
0.348
0.208
SMPC

0.448
0.351
0.273
0.197
ITskC

0.532
0.490
0.407
0.233

0.281
0.284

0.460

235

236

Chapter 14

Social Knowledge:
The T